A Russian Physicist Puts His Head Inside a Particle Accelerator
13th July 1978
The left side of his face swelled like the heart of a melon after too much rain; as if the protons threw a punch that broke his jaw. After a restless night, where he dreamt of medieval torture, branding irons placed on his bare feet he went to see the institute doctors & told them about the world’s weirdest workplace accident - how seventy- six billion electron volts swung a right hook at his mug. The rig hadn’t been firing so Bugorski put his head into the particle accelerator’s channel like an absent-minded hunter might look down his barrel to see what gunk was jamming his gun. The lighthouse warning beacon was shut off; so waves of protons lanced through his lobes like a scalpel licks its razor-sharp tongue over a cranium’s dotted lines to begin its keyhole surgery. The atom swarm was stingless like a hive of native bees; he didn’t feel any pain as the sub-atomic drones danced through his brain’s hexagonal chamber signalling where their new flower was. All he saw was the light of a trillion pieces of honeycomb held up to the sun; as though a star had gone super-novae in his face, a flashbulb illuminating the universe’s precise structure. No reporting it. He’d imagined what they’d say around the canteen; instead his immersion in the Northern lights became just another journal entry, as if plotting his daily calorie intake or the regular action of his bowels. Only when the left side of his face was left on his sheets the next morning, did Bugorski self-admit. He was saved a radioactive death by the focused energy beam that cut through his body like a harpoon’s steel arrowhead used to puncture whales: unlike the atmospheric gamma ray blanket that clothed residents of Hiroshima & Nagasaki head to toe & detonated their cells like dynamite. He was the quantum equivalent of Phineas Gage – the iron rod that pierced his skull replaced by a beam of particles travelling near the speed of light. He outlived the U-70 synchrotron that tried to assassinate him, but the act left its silhouette on the wall of his head. The left side of Bugorski’s face was permafrost – frozen at thirty-six. The hearing in his left ear collapsed like the Soviet Union leaving only communism’s tinnitus ringing in his brain. The world’s first time-traveller really; those cheek cells of his fresh-faced enthusiasm stuck forever in 1978.