The Genuine Particle is a 30-minute audio comedy written by Steve Punt and starring Reece Shearsmith and Nicola Walker. It was one of five radio plays for Big Bang Day on Radio 4 in 2008.
To celebrate the day CERN turned on the Large Hadron Collider in 2008, Steve Punt wrote a zippy little story that takes place inside CERN. The audio comedy is fast-paced and piled high with clever lines and ideas, the best being an Adams-esque organization called NWP (Not Worth Pursuing), which investigates any idea that is dismissed by experts, such as the improbable scenario that turning on the collider could cause a wormhole through time.
Which is exactly what it does.
But we’re more concerned about Ed, the scatter-brained physicist who’s managed to lose his CERN ID card on his way back from a funeral and therefore misses the secret test launch of the LHC. Keen to show off, he invites an alleged freelance journalist into Atlas without realizing he’s being used so that she can jump a wormhole back to her own time.
Reece Shearsmith, who plays Ed, is a writer and actor known for The League of Gentlemen, Psychoville, and Inside No. 9. He also has starred in stage plays like The Dresser and The Producers.
Now, I’ve never been to CERN, and I don’t know the sort of research that Punt did to put this piece together, but it feels real. Ed’s job is not glamorous. He doesn’t take security threats very seriously because he doesn’t think what he does is that interesting. It seems believable that they wouldn’t have security cameras covering every inch of the underground tunnel, so Ed’s incredulousness that they can detect subatomic particles whirring around the tunnel but not a bloke with a mop and bucket feels plausible. There is also a nationalism overtone here, as you might expect with such a multi-national outfit as CERN. So often the French become the butt of an English joke; I guess it was high time the French got the last laugh.
For science nerds, and even just comedy fans, I highly, highly recommend The Genuine Particle. It’s available on Audible.