CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, is usually found far from any type of social debate. The organization remains neutral in any and all non-scientific matters, but a recent development could render this stance untenable. What if, in the latest set of particle collisions, a new type of molecule emerged? What if they discovered the racially charged ion?
Uncharacteristically idiosyncratic for a molecule, the racially charged ion exhibits a measurable racial charge. The valence of the charge largely depends on the race of the nearest physicist. Vibrating at a low frequency, racially charged ions emit a sound that is not fit for print, out of respect for several ethnic communities.
“I’ve never seen particles behave in this way,” one CERN physicist, Hans Hellman, says.
Some of Hellman’s colleagues question if the discovery is, in fact, a discovery at all.
“Large parts of academia, especially scientists of color, have discussed this phenomenon for decades,” responds Dr. Myna Riti. “I don’t understand why this is just making news now.”
“I cannot take all the credit for this scientific breakthrough. I also must give credit to God," responds Hellman. “And my wife, Eunice,” he adds, narrowly avoiding another domestic dispute about his lack of gratitude.
Hoping to minimize the politicization of his discovery, Hellman avoids to use his namesake and instead seeks an innocuous title. His initial suggestion, “All Lives Matter,” is rejected after several colleagues interject. The ions remain without an official scientific name for some time.
Physicists grapple with the possible uses for a racially charged ion. A gentrification forecasting device is prototyped, which uses the ion. It’s able to predict demographic shifts with record-breaking accuracy. While the ethical implications of this device are considered (and Amazon attempts to acquire it for Whole Foods location planning) the media industry immediately puts the ion’s existence to use.
Reams of articles, cable television, newspapers, and podcasts require extensive editing to acknowledge the latest scientific truth. Additional staff are hired to edit the archives. Working double shifts, the new workers put in overtime to adapt headlines and copy to avoid inadvertent references to racially charged ions.
“Have they found racially tinged or controversial ions yet?” an editor asks.
The backlog of news items referencing racially charged ions is so great, an industry-wide prioritization system is instituted. Priority I rewrites stories stemming from the White House and the current administration. Headlines that previously read “President Tweets Racially Charged Comment” will now read as “President Makes Another Racist Statement.” Priority II addresses the deep catalog of Permit Patties, Subway Susans, Driveway Daves, and other alliterative characters canonized by their harassment of black people. Priority III focuses strictly on the news coverage of an infamous stand-up set from former Seinfeld co-star Michael Richards.
Physicists, being realists, understand the discovery is nothing without a name. CERN hires a branding agency to add some sexy marketing to their boring science. The shortlist includes “Roseanne’s Molecule,” “Magatrons,” and “The O’Reilly Factor,” though copyright issues may arise later on.