Mise-en-scène: A party in full swing in a wild riverside wood by the banks of the Rhône in central Geneva. Being night, not much light radiates other than the fading embers of a campfire. A reluctant party-goer, the plan is to stand there, do nothing, and let the laws of attraction do its work. Those physical laws are no more ably demonstrated than by particle physicists. And this being Geneva, home to the world’s greatest particle accelerator, look who we have here at the party down by the river. We have none other than a rabble of scientists from the quasi-mystical kingdom of CERN. I fall into talking with a couple of them. They seem about as ill at ease with their sociable surroundings as me. Geekiness is alive and well on the banks of the Rhône.
One is Italian and bashfully claims to be doing the role of ‘standard model’ photocopying while the other is Mexican and claims to be brewing electrical currents so that the Atlas project can get up to full-speed smashing protons with evermore TeVs.
‘CERN?’ I explete.
‘Woah! Do you boys know Brian Cox?’
‘No. Should we?’
‘Well, yeah. Professor Brian Cox. He’s a playboy particle physicist in Britain. Man, he’s all over the TV popularizing the subject. I ask because he’s at CERN, too.’
The Italian delves deep into pockets and draws his weapon of choice, a smart phone. Busily he starts to type.
‘How do you spell that?’
I spellcheck his effort.
‘No, no. Not with a c-k-s. It’s Cox with the letter x.’
He might be au fait with quantum mechanics, but the mysteries of Engligh phonetics needs working on. Duly, i take the Italian’s phone and type in the famous physicist’s name. He and the Mexican buzz with eagerness.
For reasons unknown, it is the risqué keyword ‘C-O-C-K-S’ and not C-O-X that leads the google image search. Low and behold a montage of photos illuminates the night sky, making my face glow with humiliation. They are all of gay porn actors posing in various states of explicit gay sex.
These scientists from the world’s greatest lab are not impressed. In fact, they couldn’t be more vexed if two WWF wrestlers were put in the Large Hadron Collider and sent crashing belly on belly at fractionally near the speed of light.
An awkward wait for something cosmic to happen ensues, but them being CERN boys they’ll be used to that peculiar phenomenon.
Busy protesting my innocence, I fumble to rectify (rectum-fy?) my mistake only to hit the wrong note again. This time a picture flashes up on google images of a gay porn actor’s anus looking ripe for the taking.
I am mortified.
My attempts at unpicking this mess are looking desperate by the second. What must they think of this stranger with mind full of smut and intentions of malevalence and sodomy?
A tussle for the phone ensues. I win. This time there will be no accidental touch of the recent history list. Cox – C-O-X. No mistaking it this time.
After a tense pause while the image montage loads, up flashes the face of CERN’s most photographed son. I stare at his perma-smile with a mixture of relief and anger. Something impish in that grin suggests Prof Brian was in on the joke all along. Caught red-handed browsing male butts, It is hapless I who is the real big butt of Brian’s joke.
By the blackened banks of the river Rhone in Geneva, my CERN acquaintances and myself have discovered dark matter. But we didn’t need the hadron collider to make that scientific breakthrough. It was the hard-on collider, in this case.