At CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, physicists and engineers are probing the fundamental structure of the universe. They use the world's largest and most complex scientific instruments to study the basic constituents of matter – the fundamental particles. The particles are made to collide together at close to the speed of light. The process gives the physicists clues about how the particles interact, and provides insights into the fundamental laws of nature.
The instruments used at CERN are purpose-built particle accelerators and detectors. Accelerators boost beams of particles to high energies before the beams are made to collide with each other or with stationary targets. Detectors observe and record the results of these collisions.
In January some of Y12 and 13 Physics student were lucky enough to go on a trip to Geneva and see inside CERN, as well as trips to the Red Cross Museum and UN Building. As you can see from one student's account, CERN definitely made a positive impression!
"Wednesday was the highlight of the trip where we took the tram to CERN, where we first looked around the museum that gave us a bit of insight into how it all works and the history of it. After this we had a presentation from someone working at CERN where some incredible numbers were mentioned, particularly the LHC being 27km long, all for a proton to speed along at over 99% of the speed of light! "
"Then came the most exciting part, after the quick drive to the opposite side of the LHC ring, we were toured round the CMS (Compact Muon Solenoid), and got to learn all about what it does - detects small particles that are emitted after 2 protons collide at 99.996% the speed of light. We even got to go down and see the detector, which is 14 metres long yet it contains enough iron to construct 2 Eiffel towers! "
"We also saw the computer room, and learned that CERN has made over 50 petabytes of data - to put that into perspective, Facebook has only recently reached 1 petabyte, and this was also where the World Wide Web was founded, so the discoveries that have come out of CERN are relevant to more than just the world of Physics"
"The following day we went to the Red Cross museum which gave an enlightening perspective on a lot of disasters around the world, and it shows what they do which the media often doesn't cover. Then a trip to the United Nations building. After some very strict security, we got a very exciting tour of the building and the conference rooms that we see all the time on the news, and also the room where the League of Nations congregated. It was a very interesting insight into what goes on, particularly for people like me interested in International Relations."
"Overall, I think and I know everyone else thinks, that this was a very exciting trip; and not only was it an enjoyable time in Switzerland, it also provided a great insight into the application of Physics and international relations in real life situations along with what it can do for us around the world. I know for me that it encouraged me even more to pursue a degree in a Physics related subject and gave me another reason to research into the subject outside of just the IB lessons."