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Friday, 30 January 2009

CERN's head of communications on the media flap

James Gillies, the poor soul who had to put up with Andrew Marr and a media circus on the day the world did not end, offers his account on what happened at at the LHC in an interview with Matthew Chalmers on, CERN: the view from inside. Among other things, James puts paid to the rumour that it was all set up around Marr's holiday plans, but he does admit that "The BBC did ask if we could put the date back if Andrew couldn’t make it, and we said “no”."
What about that "black hole" scare? "Ultimately it helped us by generating interest, but it also worried an awful lot of people and that makes me somewhat angry. People were phoning us up genuinely worried about the end of the world and demanding to know who CERN is accountable to."
The interview is an interesting account of what went on at CERN, especially the aftermath, when the thing quickly experienced and expensive breakdown. There are tales of (temporarily) suppressed pictures, rewritten notebooks and, reading between the lines, one or two people who thought they could manage the news for their own purposes.
The good news, if you are that way inclined, is that there will be a second chance to experience the excitement, when they restart the LHC. There will, though, be a somewhat smaller circus.
This time we won't have to go there to see what is happening. "The whole process will be webcast. CERN was unwilling to invest in bandwidth before the 10th so the webcast fell over very early in the morning, but we’ve since had companies offering us bandwidth in exchange for having their logo displayed."
Perhaps they should seek funds from those other creators of black holes, the world's banks. Then again, they probably don't have that much spare cash lying around these days.