Durham v. Cambridge, Theoretical Physics Foosball


One of the most eagerly awaited events of the Part III Return Conference a couple of weeks ago was the chance to revive old rivalies on the CMS foosball table. I’ll cut to the results from the first night:

Durham defeats Cambridge: 2-0

Thats right, Durham’s Institute for Particle Physics Phenomenology dismantled the Cambridge Dept. of Applied Maths and Theoretical Physics on their home turf. [I wonder if somewhere out there there’s an institute director who is quietly beaming?]

Durham was represented by Jon C. (Multiloop techniques in QCD) and yours truly (SUSY B-physics), while Cambridge fielded two of its best: Mathieu E. (SUSY gauge theories) and Sven K. (ISS in large volume scenarios). It was truly an underdog victory, Mathieu and Sven are at the top of the unofficial CMS league table while Jon and I had never actually played together until those two wins.

Team French-speakers (Mathieu and Cyril) take on Sven’s team as Mars looks on.

It seems like last year’s `Cologne style’ of blind, forceful kicks have given way to Mathieu’s `Parisian style.’ The latter involves stopping the ball at the strikers, then going fo a quick lateral tap and kicking the ball into the goal in a quick single motion with lightning-fast precision. They’ve even imported table footballs from France which are a bit slower and permit more `technical’ play. [1]

Other Results

Team London (John D. and Dave T.), right, celebrates their impending 2-10 loss as Alex, Stephen Hawking’s student, looks on.

In other foosball results, Mars played his second game (having only joined us once last year) and got his first win (with an all-Oxford team, perhaps). My officemate Luis and I lost against another permutation of Cambridge players. Team Ireland, composed of Matt and Evan, was vastly improved from last year (when Team USA defeated them 10-nil). Team Cambridge defeated Team London (Imperial + Queen Mary) 10-2, but the London team did double their expected point total. Unfortunately I’ve forgotten the other results but they involved Olga (who organised the conference) returning from semi-retirement and a few games where James couldn’t stop laughing. We had one DNP–injury; Steffen wasn’t able to play due to illness.


The first table football games began after Michaelmas term in 2006 when Sven and I decided to take a break from studying in the CMS library. It became a staple of our evening study sessions during Easter term, with our study group taking the obligatory 10pm foosball break. Many of our friends would come to the CMS in the evening just to join us for the recreational part of our study session. In those days some the fiercest pairs were Team USA (Jon B. and Flip), Team Germany (Sven and Steffen), and Team Holland (Leo + anyone). For the past year Steffen has been keeping a log of CMS theoretical physics foosball games, but Sven argues that his best performances occur when Steffen isn’t there to record them.

From 2007: Team Ireland (left, Evan and Matt) about to be swept by Team Germany (Sven, Steffen).


I’m probably obligated to include a pithy lesson in here… something about how doing physics involves being part of a community, or maybe about being able to collaborate with other physicists. These are noble things to mention, but I think I’ll stick with, “Nyah-nyah!! We beat you on your home-turf!! We are the champions! Durham is #1!


[1] I should note that the original table footballs we used last year were imported from the US (I couldn’t find any in Cambridge). They were a bit harder and faster. The tables in Ustinov and Josephine Butler colleges at Durham are simliar to this and so Jon and I have a slightly different skillset from the Cambridge group. This ended up being good training for some effectiveness against the Parisian offense. And that, Mathieu and Sven, is how we beat you. It wasn’t because you had too much wine at dinner… (anyway, that excuse doesn’t work since I was sitting next to James and was the victim of many collateral-refills)

3 Responses to “Durham v. Cambridge, Theoretical Physics Foosball”

  1. 1 David

    I remember when I was an undergraduate at Churchill College back in the 70s. We would eat dinner together (NOT Formal hall) and then go and play tablefooty for 10-15 mins or so. I was back there a couple of weeks ago and can confirm that the table is no longer there. Your description of the “Parisian style” sounds like the way we played when we were most effective. But I always liked to jam the ball at the edge and then slam my attacker into it causing the ball to be propelled forwards at almost relativistic speed. BOTH goalkeepers had to be on their guard for those shots!

  2. dude,

    how many times are you going to mention that 10-0 game which i can’t remember happening and i am pretty sure is a myth created by you.


  3. There are two possibly apocryphal stories that I don’t think I’ll ever forget. The first is the 10-0 game against Team Ireland. The second is a story of a young astrophysicist who accidentally dropped his PhD application into a rubbish bin because he confused it with a post box. 🙂

%d bloggers like this: