Tuesday, February 15, 2011

5. Visit to CERN


Last but not least in this Geneva series of five, I had the chance to visit CERN on a side trip with a handful of the conference delegates (the ones who would meet at 8am on a Saturday morning for a 9am crash course in particle physics, that is.) CERN is often described as the Valhalla for physicists. Just to give you an idea of the place CERN occupies in the public imagination, here's a picture of scientist Tara Shears (one of the Lift speakers) with the key players of the Angels and Demons movie (including Tom Hanks and Ron Howard).

Most prominently:

"The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is a gigantic scientific instrument near Geneva, where it spans the border between Switzerland and France about 100 m underground. It is a particle accelerator used by physicists to study the smallest known particles – the fundamental building blocks of all things. It will revolutionise our understanding, from the minuscule world deep within atoms to the vastness of the Universe."

Really, all I could do was let the information wash over me. Our instructor/guide for most of the tour was seriously the most enthusiastic scientist I have ever met. And he had more energy than all of us combined. I began wondering where he was harvesting it from, and that perhaps he himself was an experiment at CERN!


Here are some pictures from what we saw. We weren't able to access the most interesting parts and had a video tour donning 3D glasses (eyeballs only).



After the tour, the remainder of us went for lunch on the Lake and it was a stunning day. Afterwards, I spent my remaining Swiss Francs on some lovely chocolate and took the EuroNight train back from Zürich to Graz and had absolutely no trouble sleeping in the couchette all the way. Definitely the way to go.



Jam-packed with experience, and so many interesting people who do cool things. And yet, still relatively intimate as far as these types of conferences go. I went there to learn, be inspired, and meet some people behind some pretty glorious projects. Mission accomplished.


Nanu nanu.

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