Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Visiting CERN

A CERN Guide Discusses the Inside of a Collider Section
CERN guided tour
During our week in Morges we encountered snow that eventually postponed our flight from Geneva to London for two days (not so bad – more time with Wild Dingo) but also opened up other possibilities. One of those possibilities was getting on a guided tour of CERN. On the CERN web site it suggests that tours should be booked in advance and when we inquired the day before we actually go, there was no space. We didn’t think about touring CERN before we left on the trip, it only occurred to us while we were in Switzerland. A little disappointed with the availability of the tour, we decided to visit CERN anyway and at least see the Universe of Particles exhibit. But, the weather played in our favor it seems because there was space on a group tour – no shows. Hah, we were in luck.

CERN stands for Conseil European pour le Recherche Nucléaire, or in English, the European Organization for Nuclear Research and it is headquartered just outside of Geneva straddling the Swiss and French borders. At CERN, particles are smashed together in high-energy physics experiments to understand questions like how the universe began. The building blocks of matter and the forces that hold them together are studied with particle accelerators. In accelerators, particles reach speeds near that of light and are smashed together or against a target to see what results. The main accelerator these days is the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) which is housed in a tunnel 27 kilometers (16.8 miles) in circumference and 50-100 meters (164 - 328 feet) underground. The tunnel runs under Switzerland and France.

So we lucked out and caught an English tour that is usually booked out months in advance. On the tour a guide takes us step by step through step through the construction of an accelerator section such as the section that would make up the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). We don’t actually visit the LHC which is operating, but a facility that tested the sections. The tour is great – geek heaven. It lasts from 10:00 to 12:00 and then we spend a few hours at the Universe of Particles. For details of that visit, see this entry.

CERN General Brochure
CERN brochure
CERN brochureCERN brochureCERN brochure

Large Hadron Collider Brochure
LHC brochure
LHC brochureLHC brochureLHC brochure

CERN – Testing Facility
CERN tour

CERN tour

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