The God Particle and Croquet at CERN

Sunday, July 8, 2012 12:55 AM

As you may have heard, the geniuses at CERN (Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire) in Geneva, Switzerland, have recently discovered the so-called God Particle. The practical consequences of this momentous development for humanity are not immediately apparent. 

CERN also is the birthplace of something called the World Wide Web in 1989. It was invented there, sort of by accident or as a byproduct of nuclear research. The scientists wanted to better keep in touch and exchange information. You see the results. Where would the world be without the Web? 

But did you also know that CERN is the location of the only regulation croquet club in Switzerland? It is the epicenter of Swiss croquet. This fact tells us something about croquet. Remember what British champion Nigel Aspinal said about the sport: "It is a bit of an esoteric game...shrouded in secrecy." Sort of like the God Particle. Croquet is not for everyone. For starters, it requires a degree of intellectual curiosity.

Here's a video of CERN scientists and friends playing croquet in 2007, on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the CERN Croquet Club. They appear to be hooked on Golf Croquet, which is the less complicated version of the sport. In addition, they are somewhat casual about the all-white rule. In short, they do not take themselves too seriously outside the laboratory.



Overview of Croquet in Switzerland

Croquet started in 1965 on a patch of indifferent grass at CERN, the European Particle Physics Laboratory in Geneva, with a set of wooden mallets brought over by Norman Eatough when he started work there. In 1982 the CERN Croquet Club was formed and the faithful members persevered with improvements to the lawns until 1995,when two new courts were laid and a clubhouse was assembled.

The Swiss Croquet Association (ASC) was founded in 1991 and organises internationals at CERN and abroad. The ASC also organises several annual Swiss championships: advanced 26 and 14-point, handicap, golf croquet, novices, and a regional league, something for everyone. Thanks to the WCF/ECF's enlightened policy, the ASC's annual Association and golf croquet champions take the Swiss place in the following year's World Championship, the runner-up playing in the European Championship.

The ASC has put considerable effort into wooing the local population to take up the sport, unfortunately so far with minimal results: other calls on people's leisure time persistently prevail. A large Geneva sports centre has shown interest, but has been unable to divert the necessary not-inconsiderable finances from the insatiable demand for ever more football pitches. All golf clubs in the area have been approached, as they have land and the necessary lawn-tending know-how: they appear to want to remain purists.

Some 150 km from Geneva, there is a spark of hope in the canton of Valais, where the municipality of Sion has promised land down in the Rhone valley to a local group who play on a rude mountain meadow at 1400 metres (Ben Nevis is 1344m) to rules dating from visiting Brits in the late 19th century. Their better players have recently learned Association and golf croquet in Geneva. Sion demand that the land be well used, i.e. coaching will be necessary in order to establish a nucleus of players. At a distance of 150 km, this presents problems, which the ASC is working on.