30th January 2019
On January 15th a group of Raines Foundation year 12’s and 13’s students went to visit CERN, situated in Geneva, CERN is home to some amazing particle detectors such as the LHC – the largest particle accelerator in the world, consisting of a 27 km diameter wide which is 100m underground. In visiting this revolutionary site and its two exhibitions, we learned about the colossal international collaboration of its over 20 member states.
The LHC stands for the large hadron collider, it accelerates protons almost at the speed of light which encourages collision – the particles which fully collide are analysed by computer programs to identify new particles. There are 4 main experiments and most common collision points in this loop are ATLAS, ALICE, CMS and LHCb and 8 different stations but the only one which accelerates is the 4th. We were lucky enough to get a tour of the museum that displayed some models and real pieces of the hadron collider which added towards our understanding of the synthesis.
We were able to experience first-hand live footage of an astronaut in space doing his daily work at the space station, and found out that the international space station has a particle accelerator on it to analyse cosmic rays to find out more about dark matter. This data will be sent to CERN and analysed. An actual scientist also gave us an insight into how important and amazing it was to discover the relatively new subatomic particles the famous Higgs Boson discovered in 2012, which was unearthed after a direct collision of protons and has made such a big impact all around the world. We were also taught a bit about the history of how the massive Hadron Collider came about and new studies that are being carried out such as the research into dark matter and dark energy. It was really exciting as we saw things that we’ve only learnt about in the classroom. The visit also allowed us to learn facts that we otherwise wouldn’t have been able to find out, even the teachers didn’t know so much! Despite having modern storage space, the researchers still decide to keep all the data on cassettes! The fact that all this data is stored on cassettes is mind blowing; especially because most people have forgotten about this use of storage but it is still used to this day to hold such extraordinary, sensitive data.
Lunch at the CERN canteen was quite a delight, not only could we try a variety of Swiss foods butt we sat and ate with renowned scientists who were happy to talk to us about their work at CERN. its almost surreal that we had lunch alongside the world’s best brains I found out interestingly that a variety of people actually work there and not all of whom are scientists, some are engineers. Around 3000 people currently work there. Everyone there was there to help research to make a better future, I couldn’t help but feel inspired as for how happy they were to talk about their work. After lunch, everyone headed outside as the weather was lovely. Something that actually amazed me was how fresh the air smelled, to me personally it smelled like banana bread but to others, it smelled like cucumbers.
On the way back we used a tram to get back to Geneva airport however it took longer than expected therefore we had no time to visit much of Switzerland, we arrived back at Raines Foundation at 10:00 in time for bed and off to school the next day.
I think being able to travel with friends made the whole experience even better – this trip was very educational and quite inspiring even to those who don’t study physics (but have been studying ether chemistry or biology), being able to understand how the hadron collider works and the immense power used for scientific research was truly amazing.