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Cern 2020

Seeing is truly believing! Believing excites and inspires.

Some of our Year 13 A-level Physics students visited the European Centre for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva last week. The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is the largest and most powerful particle accelerator in the world. It is located 175 m below the ground with an incredible 27 km circumference spanning the Franco-Swiss border.

Using liquid helium, over 1900 electromagnets are cooled to temperatures of -271.3 °C. That’s colder than outer space and only 1.9°C away from absolute zero. Each superconducting electromagnet is 15 m long and together, they accelerate two proton beams travelling in opposite directions to a speed close to light. Upon collision, the two beams generate a vast amount of data which is way beyond the scope of even the most intellectual among us.

The aim is to identify fundamental particles and how they interact. Currently, we only know what 4% of the universe is made of. Such discoveries will help answer questions like what makes up dark energy (73% of the universe) and dark matter (23% of the universe).

Students visited The Universe of Particles which explore where particles come from and what laws govern their behaviour – the core research using the LHC and other accelerators around the world. The Microcosm outlines CERN’s monumental experiments and follows the path of the particles from a bottle of Hydrogen, through the network of accelerators and on to collision inside vast experiments. Finally, the two hour tour began with an introduction and a visit to the CERN conference centre where the existence of Higgs Boson was first announced in 2012.

This was followed by experiencing first hand, one of the first particle accelerators built at CERN (syncho-cyclotron, 1957) alongside an audio visual timeline of events. Students then moved into a replica of the LHC tunnel and were able to feel what it would be like 175 m below the ground and just how claustrophobic it can be. 

Lastly, we viewed actual structures of the super-conducting electromagnets and various innovative technologies used in their construction and testing. There were lots of questions and answers during the tour and even more questions now.

A huge thank you to our students for their exceptional behaviour during the trip and being courteous towards others.