It is usually very hard for scientific institutions to arouse interest of anyone unrelated to science on a daily basis in what is going on in them. The CERN does not seem to have this problem. For several years, time after time, it attracts the media’s attention, giving scientists an excellent opportunity to smuggle knowledge of particle physics.
In the best-selling novel by Dan Brown “Angels & Demons” and its even more popular screen adaptation, the facility near Geneva is the centre of events. A quarter gram sample of antimatter is produced in the CERN, and then stolen by a mysterious association which intends to use it to raze the Vatican to the ground. The number of errors and inaccuracies in the book and the film has mobilized physicists for action. The section devoted to it was created on the website of the CERN, press releases were issued, researchers met with journalists and students to explain that the story invented by Dan Brown has little to do with reality. Physicists would give much for a quarter gram ball of antimatter, because, with the current pace, the production of such an amount would take them a few hundred million years. Energy from annihilation of all the antimatter produced so far at CERN would be enough to power a light bulb for a few minutes at most. In addition, time-consumption is not the only problem. The production and storage of antimatter require enormous amounts of energy, which makes any of its uses – either as an energy source or as a tool of destruction – so uneconomical that almost impossible. The list of slip-ups of the author of “Angels and demons” does not end here, the physicists also explain that annihilation of a quarter gram of antimatter would destroy not just the Vatican, but entire Rome, they remind that the CERN is not a secret and mysterious institution, and finally, they regret that, unfortunately, they do not have an own space plane…
Another good opportunity to mark its presence in the media was the launch of the Large Hadron Collider. The event gained greater prominence than anyone expected, and this was due to the concerns that, supposedly, the new CERN accelerator could produce a black hole and be the cause of the end of the world. Courts received lawsuits with demands to discontinue the experiment, filed by a German biochemist and astrophysics from Honolulu. The employees of the CERN again provided explanations. Even if the LHC produces black holes, they will be tiny, smaller than a proton, incapable of annihilating anything. They will appear and disappear – evaporate instantly and there will be only radiation left of them. In the atmosphere and on other planets, collisions of particles with energies much higher than those achieved in the accelerator occur continuously and nothing terrible happens in relation to this. And indeed – five years after starting the LHC, the Earth is still spinning quietly.