Six research scientists at Large Hadron Collider facility will host comedy night in bid to broaden science’s appeal
Despite the one about the Higgs boson that goes to church (you can’t have mass without him) and the atom certain it lost an electron (it’s positive), physics isn’t exactly renowned for its jokes.
However, the Cern laboratory in Switzerland is to host its first standup comedy night on Friday night with six research scientists taking to the Large Hadron Collider facility for a different kind of spectacle. The show will be broadcast online.
Particle physicist Sam Gregson, a PhD student at the University of Cambridge, has organised the event at the European Organisation for Nuclear Research with the aim of broadening the appeal of contemporary scientific research. “The use of standup comedy allows scientists to engage with audiences that may not attend the usual lectures and exhibitions and helps bring cutting-edge science more into the mainstream spotlight,” he said. “It also helps to break down the negative stereotypes that may go along with working in cutting-edge science.”
With a number of professional standups, most notably Robin Ince, embracing science in their routines, several science-based comedy events have sprung up around the country, including Bright Club and Festival of the Spoken Nerd, which has just finished at the Edinburgh fringe.
As part of Cern After Dark, which is supported by Cern and the British Council, Gregson, a Bright Club regular, will perform alongside five of his colleagues and a number of comedians. Helen Keen of Radio 4’s It Is Rocket Science will front the evening, with Jonny Berliner, Pierre Novellie and Lieven Scheire all joining the roster. The scientists will attempt to explain their own research in their routines.
“My advice to all scientists is to attempt a science comedy set based on their work. Trust me – if you can make people laugh at the same time as informing them, no other piece of scientific outreach or public-speaking engagement need hold any fear for you,” said Gregson, adding that he hopes to become “the next Brian Cox”.
A live webcast will start at 7.30pm on 30 August, though viewers are warned that the show will include adult material.