CERN After Dark: Where Particle Physics and Comedy Collide

Welcome to the fiftieth installment of  Queer Your Tech with Fun, Autostraddle’s nerdy new tech column. Not everything we cover will be queer per se, but it will be about customizing this awesome technology you’ve got. Having it our way, expressing our appy selves just like we do with our identities. Here we can talk about anything from app recommendations to choosing a wireless printer to web sites you have to favorite to any other fun shit we can do with technology.

Header by Rory Midhani


I knew I had to alert you all to this when the first comedian pulled a Cara and started talking about Google search auto-complete. Like any other nerd out there, I have a healthy obsession with CERN. You may have heard of it – it’s been in a Dan Brown novel, after all. CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, is an international organization operating the world’s largest and most sophisticated particle physics laboratory.

If you haven’t heard of CERN, here is the extent of their science chops – via their about page, “What is the universe made of? How did it start? Physicists at CERN are seeking answers, using some of the world’s most powerful particle accelerators.” Damn. Those are some big, meaty questions.

If you have heard of CERN, you probably didn’t know they were also funny people – their website has a section for CERN employees. It’s not called that. It’s not called “employees.” It’s called “CERN People.” I never thought I’d find a phrase on the website for the leading particle physics lab that also sounded like it could have been written on Autostraddle. And apparently, they also host comedy nights.

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I wish I could embed this here for you, but I can’t because it’s a slide presentation plus comedy show. But you can click on this link right here and enjoy three and a half hours of scientists and professional comedians alike being nerd funny. You’re welcome. This show is in English, but has moments of French. They have also have moments assuring the people of the internet that unicorns are real. You heard it at CERN, folks. (Spoiler alert: unicorns aren’t real, they’re just being funny people). Not everyone and everything is funny, but it has super charming moments: “Physics is like sex. It has practical applications. But that’s not why we do it.” And there’s a guy that sings about particles accompanied by an acoustic guitar.

CERN’s also done a couple of other cool things lately. Here’s a few of them –

+Google Street View now lets you take a tour of CERN, supposing you can’t just pop in.

+This dance company performed their piece, called Quantum, directly above the CMS particle detector that inspired the work. If you live in Paris, you could see this performance live during the first week of November. If you live in New York City, you might be able to see it some time next year.

+Jan Peters is the new CERN filmmaker in residence. That’s a thing that exists now.

+CERN invented the world wide web in 1990 and they’re really into preserving the first website that ever existed and preserving that experience as well.

+CERN is also having a quilt exhibit  in May 2014 – it’s all Kate Findlay’s work! She’s got a series of quilts inspired by the Hadron Collider.

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A.E. Osworth

A.E. Osworth is part-time Faculty at The New School, where they teach undergraduates the art of digital storytelling. Their novel, We Are Watching Eliza Bright, about a game developer dealing with harassment (and narrated collectively by a fictional subreddit), is forthcoming from Grand Central Publishing (April 2021) and is available for pre-order now. They have an eight-year freelancing career and you can find their work on Autostraddle (where they used to be the Geekery Editor), Guernica, Quartz, Electric Lit, Paper Darts, Mashable, and drDoctor, among others.

A.E. has written 542 articles for us.


  1. This is my very favorite piece I have ever seen on Autostraddle. My roots are in particle physics (I’ve since moved into a slightly different area) and I can assure you that particle physicists are the most hilarious people ever. I know when I was working at the US counterpart of CERN there was
    a) an interpretive dance about particle physics performed at a conference
    b) a rock concert given by a band that named their band after one of the experiments.

    I just really like physics, guys.

  2. This is so cool. I don’t know much about the CERN collider so it’s cool to learn more. I mostly just know the FermiLab particle accelerator cause my grandpa was on the team that made the Tevatron.

    • Here’s a great chance to share all your Tevatron stories from grandpa! Pretty sure the commenters here would love to hear them; I know I would!

      • :D Well I don’t fully understand a lot of it because I’m not a physicist and he’s often vague. Basically he was one of the, I believe, four lead physicists that saw the need for what became the Tevatron for the collider to work and then made it happen. His specialty was the magnets. He and the others got the National Medal of Technology and Innovation in 1989. Is there anything specific you want to know? I may or may not know the answer.

  3. Oh man, I’m so excited to see CERN on Autostraddle!! My day has been made! My dad works there, and every time I read something about CERN online I feel like he’s a celebrity (he is awesome).
    They have an amazing museum there, too, if you’re ever in Geneva…

  4. Me, in real life, autumn of 2008: Guys, seriously, the LHC is up and running, this is gonna be amazeballs. My friends: what?

    Me, 2009: Okay, but really, they fixed the glitches and they’re really gonna do it this time, this will change the practical world of physics forever! My friends: huh?

    Me, 2010: They collided two beams! Why aren’t you as excited as i am? My friends: beams? are you talking about star trek, or star wars? we’re confused.

    Me, 2012: For reals, we discovered a new particle. A new PARTICLE! Higgs was right? My friends: Who is Higgs?

    Me, today: dude, there is an article on autostraddle about the shit i’ve been geeking out about for the last 5 years. My friends: Hey, did you know physics is pretty awesome and hilarious? i was just reading about it on autostraddle, have you seen this?

    Cue palm to forehead. But truly, this is article is awesome, as is autostraddle, and physics.

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