Alcoholic proof

July 26, 1996

While they are unable to match the spectacular, if unplanned, firework display staged by the European Space Agency a few weeks ago, the good folk at Cern have always prided themselves on having something worthwhile to show to visitors.

So anticipation was high recently as around 2,000 physicists from all over the world awaited the first performance by Cern's newly refurbished particle accelerator - out of action all winter while work was done extending it to the current dimensions of around three metres high by kilometres long: "It's a bit like the Circle Line," explains press officer Neil Calder helpfully. Sadly the resemblance proved all too pronounced as they pressed the relevant button and nothing happened - and went on not happening for the next four days. Swallowing hard at the prospect of tooth-combing a tunnel of such dimensions, the physicists organised a search and located the culprit - two bottles of Heineken beer obstructing a beam pipe. We've heard of reaching the parts others cannot reach, but this is ludicrous.

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