Scientists Confirm Existence of the Force and of their Sense of Humor

4-1-15 CERN the Force
CERN physicist Valerio Rossetti harnesses the Force for more mundane tasks, such as reheating coffee. Max Brice and Daniel Dominguez/CERN

In the spirit of the day of pranks, researchers at CERN have confirmed that they have a sense of humor, too. In an April 1 "update," they announced that while forces like gravity are well-documented, they have now found "the first unequivocal evidence for the Force."

"The Force is what gives a particle physicist his powers," CERN theorist Ben Kenobi of the University of Mos Eisley, Tatooine, is quoted as saying in the faux press release. "It's an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us; and penetrates us; it binds the galaxy together." Kenobi, according to the post, published a seminal paper on the subject titled "May the Force be with EU."

At CERN—the European Organization for Nuclear Research located on the Franco-Swiss border not far from Geneva—research by physicists and engineers examines the fundamental structure of the universe, according to CERN's website. The laboratory is home to the Large Hadron Collider, the most powerful particle accelerator in the world that was instrumental in the 2012 discovery of the Higgs boson particle.

After a two-year shutdown, scientists are currently in the process of rebooting the LHC to continue doing experiments and building on their research. On Tuesday, an update confirmed that the LHC restart was back on track after the team resolved a problem that had caused a short circuit in the accelerator a few days prior.

Even as the LHC is warming back up, the April fools update says, researchers have already gained new insights, namely the discovery of the Force.

"All the physicists are very excited," Arnaud Marsollier, head of press at CERN, tells Newsweek. They think this is "even better" than the Higgs boson, he says, keeping up the ruse momentarily before speaking about CERN's tradition of April fools jokes.

On April firsts of the past, CERN had announced, for example, that it would give away Higgs boson particles to a few lucky winners and that it would exclusively use the font Comic Sans for all official communications. The latter was a nod to the flack CERN had gotten when the font was used in a presentation about the discovery of the Higgs boson in 2012.

"This is an important year for CERN and we wanted to make a bold visual statement," CERN Head of Communications James Gillies was quoted as saying in the joke press release from April 1, 2014. "We thought the most effective way to communicate our research into the fundamental structure of matter at the very boundaries of technology was by changing the font." He said that the font gave the impression that, "this is a serious laboratory, with a serious research agenda."

To come up with this year's prank, "we had a brainstorming," Marsollier says. The Force "came up as the best idea for this year. There's more to come next year," he promises.

This year's joke incorporated plenty of references to its inspiration, the Star Wars film series. The press release reads:

But the research community is divided over the discovery. Dark-matter researcher Dave Vader was unimpressed, breathing heavily in disgust throughout the press conference announcing the results, and dismissing the cosmological implications of the Force with the quip "Asteroids do not concern me."

Rumours are growing that this rogue researcher hopes to delve into the Dark Side of the Standard Model, and could even build his own research station some day. With the academic community split, many are tempted by Vader's invitations to study the Dark Side, especially researchers working with red lasers, and anyone really with an evil streak who looks good in dark robes.

Marsollier explains that the jokes are meant to demonstrate that while the scientists working at CERN are doing extraordinary things, they are also ordinary people with a sense of humor. Beyond that, "we are convinced that we have to embed more science and physics in culture," which might help attract people's interest to these fields and to CERN.

"We think it's important to be part of the society," Marsollier says. "April fools is for everyone a good day to laugh and we are happy to take part."