CERN Particle Physicist (with Tom Perry)

what is it like to work at CERN podcast interview with Tom Perry
It really is its own unique special world out here. It’s lunchtime and you go out and you accidentally come across a Nobel prize winner as he’s eating his lunch.

Imagine the one thing that truly captivates you.  The thing that you love doing, thinking about, and learning about.  Now imagine that you get the opportunity to do that thing for a living, and then imagine that you’re surrounded by other amazing people, from all over the world, who love that thing just as much as you do.  Today’s guest, Tom Perry, is a brilliant particle physicist working at the mecca of particle physics CERN.  He and thousands of other physicists work daily at the Large Hadron Collider to make some of the great scientific discoveries of our time.  In part one of our interview we’ll learn about life at CERN, the LHC, and what happens when you smash two protons together at close to the speed of light.

We have these models and they have this extraordinary predictive power, but when we start trying to take them literally they tell us some pretty crazy things. One example of a crazy thing it tells us is that if you collide protons together you don’t necessarily just get protons out.
There’s a saying in quantum mechanics that anything that can happen does happen. So if something isn’t explicitly forbidden and not allowed by the laws of physics then you should probably just assume that it is happening.

Interview Contents

Part 1

3:30 - What is physics?

11:00 - What they do at CERN.

12:00 - The Large Hadron Collider

18:00 - E=MC2, the changing of protons.

21:00 - What the protons can become after being smashed together.

22:30 - Anything that can happen does happen, and the flexibility of quantum physics.

29:45 - The things in the universe that truly have a 0% chance of happening, and what separates them from everything else.

34:45 - What else do they smash together in the LHC?

40:15 - Why are we doing this?

47:00 - The number of physicists at CERN and the data they collect.

51:15 - The life at CERN and being surrounded by brilliant physicists.

57:00 - Physics in the private industry.

58:45 - Non-physics jobs that physicists will do.

1:01:30 - Jobs of the future for physicists.

1:03:30 - How AI and improving tech will infringe on physicists turf.

1:08:00 - Who pays the bills at CERN and who is Tom’s employer?

Part 2

2:15 - How the LHC speeds up particles.

10:00 - Speed and energy in the LHC.

13:00 - Einstein’s special relativity.

17:00 - Getting close to the speed of light.

23:00 - What would happen to us if we went that fast?

28:00 - Space travel.

31:30 - Our physics laws vs. what else could be at play in the universe.

38:00 - Tech and the future of particle physics.

41:00 - The next major big thing coming from the LHC.

44:30 - Does observing something make it easier to see the next time?



Amazing Music Video/Cover Song Tom Made At CERN

2003 - Howie Day wrote this song:

2015 - Some friends and I at CERN rewrote it:

2017 - And then this happened:

2017 - And Howie Day released a music video:


Kevin Cole

Marcus Batson


Michelle & Jim Wortner

Janelle Swanson

Jimmy Seymour


Blake Fletcher

San Francisco, CA

Livin it up!