Daily Show Does CERN

By John Conway | April 8, 2009 1:46 pm

If you watch the Daily Show, you know the inane humor of John Oliver, one of the regular “corespondents” on the show. My colleagues at CERN tell me that he’s visiting CERN now, filming one of his inimitable segments on the LHC and the experiments, to be aired “some time after April 21”. Personally, I can’t wait to see it – he is always funny and usually pretty sharply barbed. oliver-cms.jpgHe apparently rode an LHC dipole magnet like Slim Pickens rode the bomb in Dr. Strangelove, and asked one of our guys “is there anything you do here that’s not boring?” His video spots are always edited tightly to get the maximum laugh quotient. Anyway, here he is in the CMS cavern, earlier today (thanks to my student Matt Searle for the photo!)

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Miscellany, Science and the Media
  • http://vulpes82.blogspot.com/ Bourgeois Nerd

    If you like his comedy, why call it “inane”? That’s usually used as a pejorative.

  • John

    I love inane humor…in the sense of silly. Oliver’s stuff usually ends up self-defeating in a way that nevertheless makes some sort of point about the silliness of the world itself.

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  • tacitus

    Did you mean “insane” or, perhaps, “urbane” instead of “inane”? I agree with Nerd that “inane” is probably not the adjective you were looking for.

  • http://www.videoaccent.com doublechateau

    From wordnet.princeton:
    inanely – fatuously: vacuously or complacently and unconsciously foolish

    seems like the right word to me.

  • R.

    Great story!
    I vote against using inane to describe the only respectable News show on television – might send the wrong message to some. It struck the wrong note when I read it the first time.

  • John

    I am getting that a lot of people confuse “inane” with “insane” and/or react the same way to the word. Not that John Oliver is not insane, or that his humor could not better be described as insane than inane. Quite the contrary, he’s a flaming Brit loony of the purest sort, on par with John Cleese or Benny Hill. With tongue firmly in his cheek, his stinging sarcasm typically annihilates his target on the first shot. It is most definitely inanity at its finest. Can’t wait to see CERN’s fate in his hands.

  • Richard

    I was the “one of our guys” that John Oliver interviewed in front of the CMS detector this afternoon. Not that it is important, but he did not ask “is there anything you do here that’s not boring?” The question he asked me was more like “can this [pointing to the detector] produce anything boring?” In the straight style I was asked to follow, I explained that most of the physics that the detector is expected to see is indeed already understood, and in that sense could be called “boring,” but it is those very rare events that we hope to detect that should be interesting as they shed new light on our understanding of the universe.
    More amusingly, he pulled out an iPhone and said “Isn’t this great? Can I check my email on that [again pointing to CMS]? Isn’t there an app I can download to do the same thing? And such things are getting smaller all the time. When will this be small enough to be in your kitchen?” I think the best part of my response was that while you cannot check your email with CMS, with it you can check out the first moments that followed the beginning of the universe. We will see what makes it to the final edit.

  • http://vulpes82.blogspot.com/ Bourgeois Nerd

    Ah, after seeing some dictionary entries, I think this is a case of a word that has a defintion split between its denotative and colloquial usages. I’ve always used “inane” to mean something like “lame, square, irrelevant,” not “silly.” Maybe its a generational thing. (This is what you get, BTW, when English majors invade a physics blog: nitpicking about the word “inane” and its usage.)

  • Luke

    Awesome. That is all.

  • Richard

    If other readers are interested, here are some more photos of my interview with John Oliver in the CMS cavern:
    I have included captions, some of which reflect to my best recollection the questions he asked me. How would you have answered?

  • John

    Thanks, Richard, for the first person account – it will indeed be interesting to see what emerges after editing!

  • Harold

    I was eating dinner at CERN the other day in the cafeteria, and was wondering why there was a man outside, holding a rolled up piece of paper, riding one of the LHC dipole magnets. It all makes sense now!

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