Success in finding the Higgs boson (Hb), the elementary thingummybob predicted by many household-name particle physicists, seems close at hand. With this in mind, boffins behind the £5 Billion CERN Large Hadron Collider project are now looking to defray costs by identifying other, similarly profitable, ventures.
Rolf Heuer, CERN Director-General, became a cricket fan during post-graduate studies at Oxford in the 1970s, when the young Imran Khan, with whom Heuer formed a lifetime friendship, was playing for the varsity side. Heuer's idea is to use some of CERN computer's downtime to investigate 'Duckworth-Lewis' (D-L), the complicated system for determining the winner in a limited-over match shortened by adverse weather or by terminal-risk boredom.
Heuer explained "With Hb we have the theory but no evidence. With D-L we have the evidence for its existence but no coherent theoretical underpinning. So when we look at D-L we'll have to set the machine to run backwards". The concept apparently sprang from a lengthy luncheon interval chat with Khan last summer "Imran had wondered if CERN could help with understanding Pakistan's political complexities. That wasn't possible but one thing led to another until, by the end of the third bottle, we'd agreed to go for the big one. We'll fire a top cricketing statistician in one direction and Geoff Boycott in the other. The collision between pure fact on the one hand and misogynist self-opinionated bore on the other should create the perfect firestorm, wherein a complete scientific theory will be formed on the laboratory bench. A bit like when R2-D2 first appears as a hologram in the first Star Wars film. But double-spaced and in Times New Roman".
Heuer dismissed claims made in a recent Daily Telegraph editorial that, far from providing something concrete the experiments might actually destroy the sport altogether "Once again the Telegraph is simply promoting revolutionary ideas and radical thinking; we're all getting just a bit tired of it wouldn't you say?" He went on "We've already had some dummy-runs to help us sort out any glitches. For instance, partly to prove the impossibility of assessing political motives, we tried firing George Osborne against Peter Mandelson. Unfortunately they proved to be made of remarkably similar stuff. Plus, it took us three days to burn off the oily residue with a thermal lance we'd had to get in from The Tool Hire Shop in Geneva. We're not made of money, so won't be making that mistake again!"
Success in this and other 'secondary level' experiments could see CERN's usefulness extend well into 2013 or even beyond. Some more fanciful speculation on what it might then be used for has been described as 'ludicrous' by Heuer. "Let me make this quite clear. The Large Hadron Collider was configured to try to find Hb. Finding a use for the Olympic stadium, an honest Pakistani cricketer or the Lib-Dem vote in the next general election is, frankly, way beyond its design capabilities."