Daniel Ruttley, Year 13
After lunch on Friday 15th January, 43 Y12 and Y13 Physicists set out on a coach (with bus driver Les) to Birmingham airport with Mr Sears, Mr Brackstone and Mrs Gill. Destination: Geneva, Switzerland to visit CERN, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research, home of the famous 27km long Large Hadron Collider.
When we arrived at Geneva Airport, we boarded a train from the station underneath the airport. This took us directly into the centre of the city, where our hostel was a few minutes’ walk away. By the time we arrived at the hostel, it was quite late at night, so we ate the packed dinner that was waiting for us, and went to bed. A big day awaited us on Saturday…
After breakfasting on Saturday morning, we took a walk along Lake Geneva, and then had some free time. A group of us went to a local souvenir shop, selling local items such as fondue kits and Switzerland keyrings, as well a selection of cuddly toys that Mr Sears enjoyed playing with! We then met back up, had an obligatory group photograph near the Lake Geneva fountain, before heading off to the tram station to travel to CERN.
At CERN, we had some time looking around the public exhibition first. This included some general background about the history of the CERN site, as well as information about how the modern experiments work and what they are trying to find out. Highlights of the exhibition included the cloud chamber, which showed particle interactions happening all around us, and the outside area, which housed a lot of equipment from old experiments over the past few decades. Our tour began after lunch, and started with a presentation from a scientist who is involved with one of the experiments around the Large Hadron Collider. His presentation lasted around an hour, and explained why physicists are so interested in the data that the LHC can provide, as well as a brief explanation of what the famous Higgs Boson particle, discovered a few years ago at CERN, actually is. We then boarded a coach, which took us over the border into France to the other side of the LHC to visit one of the experiments: the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) detector. The aim of this experiment is to record the momentum and energy of all particles produced when others collide in the LHC, and therefore learn more about the behaviour of these particles. After looking around the CMS (including going underground to view the detector itself), we headed back to the hostel, had dinner, then began the evening entertainment. Mr Brackstone had spent the Christmas holidays planning a giant quiz, with rounds ranging from Physics questions to pointless-style rounds. Eventually, after hours of competition going late into the night, the self-styled Year 12 ‘Dream Team’ were declared winners, and everyone headed up to bed. On Sunday morning we were greeted by a snowcovered Geneva. This meant only one thing:
snowball fight! Our walk to the Geneva Science Museum was slow, as every few steps, we had to stop to have a mini snowball fight! When we eventually arrived at the museum, we had one hour in which to look around before we had to leave, as another group was coming in. The museum housed a lot of old scientific equipment, but the highlight was the interactive temporary exhibition about astronomy, which explained how the views of the Earth and the solar system have changed over time.
We then had a couple of hours before we had to leave to go to the airport, largely taken up by snowball fights, as well as exploring the city and having lunch. We then boarded the train back to the airport again, and headed home. Overall, it was a great trip, and showed to us all what the world of research physics actually looks like.