STEVE MARASPIN / BESIDES SOFTWARE

The Tunnel of shame

The story of an embarassing press release. And its dumb follow up.

There are times when someone makes me ashamed of my nationality. That’s sometimes the case for noisy tourists abroad. Unfortunately, the matter is much more serious this time. Please do not misunderstand me, though; and I’ll make it clear: I love Italy. And also my point is not about politics. I’m actually too disappointed by most politicians, to support either side (I’m afraid, the coin is pretty much the same).

Yet, I’d like to to express my opinion on something which – I think – seriously hurts our country’s reputation and (further) damages our credibility around the world.

If you know nothing about it, it might be worth to recap that several days ago, during an experiment between the CERN and Gran Sasso laboratories, some researches have obtained remarkable results. You can find out more about this here and, more skeptically, here. Or simply here.

CNGS experiment through the Earth

Cross section of the CNGS experiment through the Earth. (Image: CERN)

Acknowledged of these results, the MIUR (Italian ministry for education and research), proudly congratulated with scientists; and also took the chance to stake its merits, mentioning the 45M€ government funding for the construction – we can read – of a tunnel (?!?), between the CERN and Gran Sasso laboratories.

MIUR Press Release on Experiment Tunnel Construction

MIUR Press Release on Experiment Tunnel Construction (source MIUR)

Of course, such sentence makes little sense, since no such record long tunnel (obviously) has ever been built. As a consequence, derision immediately scattered all over the Internet, with funny cartoons, such as the following (reproducing a warning sign, of the kind you can find on Italian highways), circulating around the social web sphere:

Neutrinos taking over in the Gran Sasso

Neutrinos taking over in the Gran Sasso (highway tunnel)

Obviously, it would’ve been wise (and more correct, I shall add) to call it a beam, rather than a tunnel. That was ambiguous (to say the least), and it’s not cool to make such mistakes. Especially on an official ministry’s website. But a badly written article could have come out of everyone, after all, so that I wasn’t that shocked. I got their point. And it’s not my habit to deliberately seek for causes for objection. Or to fuel arguments.

I was astonished, though, when I’ve had a chance to read ministry followup statement against the critics they had received. The somewhat arrogant reply (titled “ridicolous remonstrance”) goes (roughly) like this:

“it’s obvious that there’s not such a thing as a physical tunnel between the CERN and Gran Sasso labs. You should’ve got that! Of course, we were referring to the tunnel where protons run, and from which collisions originates the beam of Neutrinos, which then reaches the Gran Sasso lab, traveling through the soil. We funded the construction of such tunnel and related equipment”

“What the fu*k?”, I immediately thought. Dear minister, I could’ve understood if you were specifying that you improperly used the tunnel term (and the construction metaphor, for that matter), to refer to the (generation of a) beam. Or even admitted your ignorance in the field. But please, do not insult your populous’ intelligence, saying that the tunnel you mentioned was referring to the one which is used to “run” particles. The one you said you’ve helped to build, just the day before. YOU stated that such tunnel has been built between the CERN and Gran Sasso laboratories, not within one of the facilities. And now, you’re even supporting such (dumb) statement with an (insane) followup. Come on, please. That’s simply making an a*s out of yourself. You must have guts to say opposition’s making all of this instrumental. You’re providing them with all evidence. Seriously, do yourself (and your citizens) a favor, and think about it twice before writing such kind of bullsh*t on an official press release. I have nothing against you, really. But please, have the decency to admit your mistakes and realize it’s just you providing the fuel for all these arguments.

With this said, I think I better get my a*s to work now. On a side note, I wonder how certain people got where they are. And how they even got out of high school. I’m astonished. If you’re Italian, I think you should be too. But let’s just go to work now. And pay their wages… :-/

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