CERN, Physics

Visiting CERN

The annual trip to CERN is run by the Physics Department and grants 20 students the opportunity to develop their understanding of particle physics and potential careers in the subject while also enjoying the delicious food the Swiss are known for. 

Upon landing in Geneva there was no time to dawdle as there was a packed day ahead. A quick stop at the hostel to drop off luggage before a voyage on the water buses. It was an enjoyable ride for all, despite those sitting in the open getting more than they bargained for from the Jet d’Eau fountain’s spray. A visit to the St Pierre Cathedral followed, where we were able to go up all the way to the top of the two towers and observe all of Geneva. From here, we were allowed two hours to explore Geneva but advised to visit the crypts below the cathedral, the Patek Phillipe Museum and the Musee Ariana, an advisory everyone took heed of. The day was capped off with a trip to the famous Edelweiss restaurant for fondue and folk music, with the chance to blow an alpine horn – which many endeavoured.

A quick tram ride led us to the destination of day two: CERN. Here we were taught about the origins of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) and while we were unable to visit the LHC itself due it emitting lots of radiation while in use, we were able to visit the Synchro-cyclotron (the first ever particle accelerator) which had been discontinued for 30 years. Some time was also spent in the Microcosm - a small interactive museum of that showcased many of the advancements in particle physics made by CERN including the finding of the Higgs Boson. Following this we were treated to a Q&A from Dr. Kate Shaw who gave us a short talk on her work at CERN before answering the many and varying questions we had on our minds. After departing, everyone headed to the Spaghetti Factory, (which despite its name was not a place to make pasta but an incredible restaurant).

Day three was also spent at CERN but we got the chance to make our own cloud chambers using dry ice. A simple design that allows you to “see” individual particles from naturally occurring radon gas. The particles would leave behind a momentary trail of bubbles visible to the human eye. Afterwards we were encouraged to try and discern which particle left which shape track using our knowledge learned in class. This was followed by a visit to the Red Cross Museum. Here on show were the moving efforts and results the charity had put in and achieved. Protecting thousands of POWs and other oppressed people around the world. 

Sadly, our time in Geneva was up and we headed to the airport but having spoken to many of the other students on the trip, everyone unanimously agrees that the trip was a great success and everyone gained some extra knowledge and insight into a subject we all love and thoroughly recommend.
By Dougal Houston