Friday, 24 July 2015

CERN 2015

On 30th June a group of A Level Physics students from the Space Studio flew to Geneva in Switzerland to visit the particle physics laboratory at CERN.

CERN is also known as the European Centre for Nuclear Research and is the home of the famous Large Hadron Collider (LHC). The LHC has a circumference of 27 km and accelerates beams of protons to 99.9999991% of the speed of light! This enables scientists to study the different particles produced when the protons collide helping them to understand the fundamental laws of nature. The LHC is located on the border between Switzerland and France with its main headquarters being in Geneva.
An overview of the experiments at CERN.
Image credit: CERN
We arrived in Geneva at 10 am to glorious sunshine and headed straight out to the lake to enjoy the weather, scenery and local ice-cream! The students had the opportunity to go out to the Jet d'Eau, Geneva's famous water fountain. The water leaves the nozzle at 124 mph propelling 7000 litres into the air!
After visiting the lake we headed into Geneva's old town for lunch and stopped off at the Reformation Wall. This landmark is in the grounds of the University of Geneva and depicts protestant figures from across Europe.
After our visit to the old town there was just enough time for a rest before heading out to a traditional Swiss restaurant for dinner.
Sampling some Swiss cuisine (and chips!)
After a good night's sleep we were all up bright and early on Wednesday morning for our trip to CERN. On arrival at CERN we attended a particle physics lecture which set the scene for the day and gave the students an opportunity to ask any preliminary questions that they had.
We began our tour with a visit to the Synchrocyclotron which was the first particle accelerator at CERN and was built in 1957. The students were able to learn all about the accelerator and ask questions about the history of particle physics.
The Synchrocyclotron
After the visit to the Synchrocyclotron we were lucky enough to be taken 80 metres underground to the control area for the CMS detector. CMS stands for Compact Muon Solenoid and it is one of the detectors for the LHC (you can see its location on the diagram above). CMS is a multi purpose detector and was partly responsible for the discovery of the Higgs boson in 2012.

A cross section of the open CMS detector
Image credit: CERN
The students were given a tour of the underground area and were able to learn all about the construction and achievements of CMS.
The detector collects a huge amount of data and needs a lot of computing infrastructure to be able to analyse it all.
Underground CMS computers!
Safety was an important consideration during the visit. CERN is a working physics laboratory and the students underwent a safety briefing before travelling underground.
After touring the underground CMS area we traveled back to the surface and visited the control room where physicists were hard at work analysing the data gathered from the collisions. The students were also able to view many of the different components that make up the detectors and accelerators at CERN.
Tom inspecting a part of the detector that tracks the positions of charged particles emerging from collisions
After our tour we had lunch in the CERN cafe before heading back into central Geneva for a visit to the Natural History Museum.
Making friends with the exhibits at the Natural History Museum!
On our final day in Geneva we spent time in the Botanical Gardens before visiting the Place des Nations and the UN building.
Relaxing in the Botanical Gardens
The United Nations
It was a scorching 37 degrees and the students decided to take the opportunity to cool off in the water fountains at the Place des Nations!
Before heading back to the airport we visited the broken chair sculpture near to the UN building. The monument symbolises opposition to land mines and cluster bombs and was constructed in 1997.
We hope to make the trip to CERN available to all future cohorts of students who study A Level Physics at the Space Studio. If you would like to find out more about the trip please get in touch with Miss Flood.  

The students produced a video about the visit which you can watch below:

If you would like to learn more about CERN visit:

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