At the end of the Lent Term a group of thirteen Lower and Upper Sixth Physicists travelled to Geneva to visit the world famous centre for European nuclear research. We arrived on Thursday evening after navigating a two-hour traffic jam on the M42 on the way to Birmingham Airport, saved by the ever reliable Ambassador taxis who somehow got us to the departure gate on time!
After a good rest we travelled to CERN on the Friday morning. We joined other groups from around Europe for a lecture, giving us an insight into the development and history of CERN. Our lecturer then gave us an overview of the developments discovered at CERN leading to the standard model of particle physics. He finished with an overview of current research such as the research into the gluon-quark plasma which was found in the first few minutes after the Big Bang. We then departed on our tour of CERN, which involved repeatedly crossing between France and Switzerland. We were given a tour of the control room of the AMS (Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer) research centre. This is a particle detector built by CERN but orbiting the Earth on the International Space Station looking for dark matter. The control room was like something from a James Bond Film, with a live feed to the space station and a huge electronic map on the wall charting the position of the satellite over the Earth. We then visited the headquarters of the famous Large Hadron Collider where the Higgs Boson was discovered. We were shown around by a brilliant pair of Physicists from Poland and the Netherlands who are currently carrying out cutting edge research at CERN and were able to explain extremely difficult concepts in perfect English. It was a real lesson for our pupils in how modern innovative scientific research relies on collaboration and co-operation with people from all over the world.
After a great lunch at the CERN cafeteria we toured the visitor centre and then headed back to our hotel for some rest. That evening we had lovely walk along the Geneva lakefront before an evening of traditional Swiss food and entertainment. Peter Williams (U6L) couldn’t resist the urge and even had a go on the eight metre alphorn, producing a beautiful note! The next day we visited the beautiful Musee d'Histoire des Sciences on the lakefront and then had some time to explore the old town of Geneva before heading home back to Repton.