Fact Check

Clouds Over Geneva Show CERN Opening a Portal to a New Dimension?

Conspiracy theorists speculated that pictures of a storm over Switzerland were proof that the Large Hadron Collider had opened a portal to another dimension.

Published Aug. 23, 2016

 (Image Editor, Flickr creative commons)
Image courtesy of Image Editor, Flickr creative commons
Eerie clouds over Geneva were caused by the particle collider at CERN opening a portal to a new dimension.
What's True

There was a storm over Geneva in June 2016, and nature photographer Christophe Suarez captured images from the event.

What's False

The photographs do not portray CERN ripping open a portal to another dimension, they depict lightning and clouds from a storm.

A dramatic series of photographs of a thunderstorm over Geneva were reappropriated in order to peddle the claim that they are evidence that the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Geneva was responsible for opening portals to other dimensions.

The images, which were taken by photographer Christophe Suarez and posted to his social media accounts, including Flickr and Twitter, were taken without his permission and without attribution:

One such conspiracy theory-pushing outfit runs a YouTube page called "Freedom Fighter Times," and in a 27 June 2016 post, claimed that Suarez's pictures depicted a "ball of energy" located directly over the LHC. Suarez responded angrily on his Facebook page, both to having his photographs lifted without attribution and to the fact they were appropriated by conspiracy theorists, saying in French that there were storms throughout Switzerland the night the pictures were taken (24 June 2016) and that the weather patterns had been predicted by Swiss meteorologists.

Suarez told us he and two friends were chasing the storm as it swept over Geneva, trying to capture the cloud formations and lightning. He reiterated his frustration over having his photographs published without his permission in a message to us, and also expressed dismay over the purpose they were used for:

With the culture of digital photography and photos with smartphones, it is common to think that a photo has no value. I work with a photo agency located in the south of France, and I’ve seen the prices fall the last 15 years. The photographer is not recognized nowadays... Actually, the behavior of some media, agreeing to work with photo microstock agencies or even asking photographers to work for free, and worse, sometimes stealing the photos, is unacceptable. And in fact, that’s what happened with our photos of the Geneva thunderstorm. They were stolen to demonstrate stupid theories.

Suarez also told French-language magazine Le Dauphine that the pictures weren't even taken over CERN, "but a little further on the Geneva basin." Suarez also tweeted, "I don't allow anyone, person or entity, (newspaper, TV, blog, etc.) to publish a picture posted on my wall, without my permission."

But Suarez' condemnations could not stop multiple web sites from taking his photographs and using them alongside the story line that CERN created an interdimensional "portal." One headline reads, "What is CERN doing? Bizarre clouds over Large Hadron Collider 'prove portals are opening.'" Yet another reads, "Is THIS the portal to another dimension? Bizarre clouds spotted over Hadron Collider." The stories appear mainly in tabloids and web sites with names like "Ancient Code" and "Prophecy News Watch."

The narrator of the Freedom Fighter Times video says he can see a face in the cloud and angrily notes:

It's amazing, because they keep messing with nature and denying it, and here is yet more proof that they are messing with nature... Now is it a coincidence that they just started their Awake experiment?"

Later, after determining the picture wasn't faked, the narrator says:

What portals are being opened in this cloud?... Now of course somebody's gonna call me crazy or a conspiracy theorist. That's OK, that's great. But you know what, when you actually come to the chance of where you're gonna awaken to these crazy experiments that CERN is doing, you have to realize that people have filed lawsuits against CERN.

He then shows another photograph of what he says is the same area, this time with a rainbow arched over it, and goes on to warn that rainbows are a reminder that God will flood the planet if people don't repent from their sins. According to CERN's web site for the AWAKE experiment, it is the first accelerator of its kind to test plasma wakefield acceleration:

A plasma wakefield is a type of wave generated by particles travelling through a plasma. AWAKE will send proton beams through plasma cells to generate these fields. By harnessing wakefields, physicists may be able to produce accelerator gradients hundreds of times higher than those achieved in current radiofrequency cavities. This would allow future colliders to achieve higher energies over shorter distances than is possible today.

CERN sits on the French-Swiss border in Switzerland and houses the world's largest particle collider — a machine that allows scientists to test an array of theories in particle physics. Perhaps because experiments conducted at CERN carry the promise of answering large, fundamental questions about space, time and the nature of physical existence, as well as ringing in a new era of scientific accomplishments, it has been a focal point of conspiracy theorists who fear it will be a launchpad for a doomsday scenario.

The video from Freedom Fighter Times (which has hundreds of thousands of views) can be seen here:

Bethania Palma is a journalist from the Los Angeles area who has been working in the news industry since 2006.