By Mike

This is a synchrotron. It's big, round, and the coffee is crap
This is a synchrotron. It’s big, round, and the coffee is crap

As I write this I am in a sort of…academic hangover. Days of excessive research has led to a groggy feeling, general tiredness and probably a lingering smell of beer. I have been at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility, the ESRF in the south of France, firing high powered X-rays at tiny crystals. By rapidly accelerating electrons around a huge circular structure, light is generated, firing off the ring in tangents, that can do pretty much anything scientists could possibly want. However, there seems to be some confusion regarding the difference between a synchrotron-a research structure, and megatron-the leader of the decepticons. If you are faced with something and you don’t know which one it is, these simple questions should help you find out:

1) You park your car in the parking lot, does it:

  • a) Stay securely in the place where you left it
  • b) Turn into a giant robot like structure/flip over/otherwise explode?

2) What is your aim?

  • This is megatron. It's big, scary, and the coffee is crap
    This is megatron. It’s big, scary, and the coffee is crap

    a) To use tuneable, high powered photon sources for scientific purposes

  • b) To go about your life with no disturbances

3) Are you Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, Mark Wahlberg or all of the above?

  • a) No
  • b) Maybe or Yes

4) When the unknown object/machine turns on, do you:

  • a) Do science
  • b) Run wildly for your life, always just missing fireballs and bullets

5) How many physicists can you currently see?

  • a) Several/many/big bang theory
  • b) I don’t know, I am too busy not being killed

    The one on the right is Professor Brian Cox
    The one on the right is Professor Brian Cox

6) How much did the machine/movie about the machine cost?

  • a) Hundreds of millions of dollars
  • b) Hundreds of millions of dollars

7) Who is your friend?

  • a) A smart person
  • b) A robot/car thing that talks using a radio

You answered:

Mostly a: Congratulations, you are at a synchrotron! Go forth and SCIENCE!

Mostly b: Oh no! The earth has been invaded by decepticons. On the plus side, you might get to meet Marky Mark or Megan Fox, as you wish.

A mix of a and b: It seems the synchrotron has been invaded by decepticons! On the plus side, see ‘mostly b’.