Swiss snow, physics and protons

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By Winnie Guo and Harry Green, 6.2

Last Friday the 6.2 physicists set off to Geneva, Switzerland.

We visited the History of Science Museum on the first day which was on the frozen icy banks of Lake Geneva. Saturday was spent at CERN, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research where they operate the largest particle physics laboratory in the world and focus on research in fundamental physics.

We visited various departments in CERN and got a chance to talk to the researchers. The excellent displays and presentations were very helpful for understanding the principles behind the processes used to recreate the conditions just moments after the ‘Big Bang’ and generate and detect exotic particles including the elusive Higgs Boson. The many stages of accelerator feeding the Large Hadron Collider took protons to 99.999% of the speed of light before colliding them head-on.

The technology needed to keep the particles on track, and to make them move with the necessary precision, required super conducting magnets and electronic feedback control systems – and this interested us the most. We toured SM18 (the world’s leading magnet test facility) and discussed the implications of developing high temperature superconductors.

On the third day we also went to the UN buildings and the International Red Cross Museum before a trip to the snowy Jura Mountain where we had lots of fun. It was a brilliant trip – many thanks to the Physics Department and Vikki Alderson-Smart!