3rd July 2022
Writing: Luke Corey (Year 12)
Editing: Arran Dhanda (Year 10)
CERN: Crazily Exciting Radioactive Nonsense? Cognitive Engineered Restructuring of Neurochemistry? Chinese Economic Ranking Network? No - CERN stands for Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire (European Council for Nuclear Research), so it was no surprise when over 40 physicists excitedly boarded the plane to Geneva, Switzerland, for an exciting and insightful Physics visit.
We had an immersive tour of the laboratory, being led by actual scientists whose academic work is dedicated to pushing the boundaries of scientific discoveries. There was a large computer room with a small museum showing the development of their storage systems - some people even got archived magnetic tapes with a Terabyte of data as souvenirs!
CERN specialises in particle accelerators, which consist of long tubes (the Large Hadron Collider is a 27 km ring underground) for subatomic particles to collide with each other. Their collision has been analysed to incredible levels of precision, and are evidence for the existence of certain particles, like the Higgs Boson which was evinced in 2012. Unfortunately, due to the nature of the research, the main attraction is not particularly impressive to look at: despite that, we were able to look in one of the rooms with part of one of the colliders, before we were swiftly ushered out by another scientist, informing us that the collider was still active, and a misfire could be fatal!
Later in the day, we worked in groups to create diffusion cloud chambers, which is a neat practical to show ionising radiation. These chambers essentially show charged particles interacting with dry ice; we can see their tracks in the chamber, formed by condensation which forms on the ions momentarily. We also explored the museum at CERN, thoroughly detailing its interesting history with some components of their old equipment.
In addition to touring CERN, we visited the United Nations Office at Geneva. Interestingly, newer conference rooms were decorated by different countries - my favourite one had to be the renovation by Spanish sculpturer Miquel Barceló, with a captivating ceiling representing the sea. From different perspectives, you can see different colours, which is symbolic of each person having different opinions.
On the last day, before our departure back to Heathrow, we took a lovely cruise around Le Lac Léman; the audio tour mentioned that whilst it’s often referred to as Lake Geneva, it technically isn’t, as Lake Geneva only refers to part of Le Lac Léman.
In conclusion, everyone found the trip to CERN as a compelling, engaging, riveting and newsworthy trip. On behalf of the other students, I would like to thank the Physics Team for organising such a fantastic visit!