Cern Physics Trip
Our group of 14, containing 12 x Sixth form Physicists from Lower Sixth and Upper Sixth left Kilgraston and made our way somewhat gingerly through the snow in the minibus to Edinburgh airport.
Shattered, we arrived into a Geneva that was bathed in sunshine. Having dropped off our bags at our accommodation we headed into town to find some lunch. We ended up having a simple but delicious meal at the open-air bathing station called Bain des Paquis – on a sort of pier into Lake Geneva. We marvelled at the clear water, enjoyed the sunshine and fresh air and even spotted 2 or 3 brave be-flippered swimmers!
Feeling somewhat revived, the girls were given copies of the Geneva Treasure Hunt and sent off to explore the history and culture of the city. Some of our group really made the most of this, travelling by foot, boat and tram to visit the Museum of Fine Art, the United Nations and the impressive Reformation Wall with its statues of those pillars of the reformation William Farel, John Calvin, Theodore Beza, and John Knox.
After a very long day we had supper at a simple restaurant, Chez ma Cousine on y Mange du Poulet (which, strangely, enough specialised in chicken) and took ourselves back to the hostel for a well-earned sleep.
The schedule for the next day was the reason for our trip to Geneva: to visit to CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, one of the world’s largest and most respected centres for scientific research and home of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). Early that morning we queued up for a simple breakfast in the hostel and then jumped on a couple of trams to get to CERN which is situated just outside the city on the border with France.
Our guide for the morning, a Professor of Physics from the University Clermont Ferrand in France, talked us through the history of CERN and the science that goes on there before accompanying us to various sites on the campus to continue the tour.
Professor Anatolini explained about the superconducting magnets used to direct the particles.
By midday, our heads were hurting with everything we had been told so were extremely glad to head to the CERN cafeteria, an amazing set up where chefs in tall white hats whizz up everything from traditional French plat du jours, pizza, pasta to stir fried king prawns with noodles. It was fun to be there amongst 100s of engineers, computer scientists and physicists that come to work or study at CERN from every corner of the planet.
Then we headed to Microcosm, one of the 2 permanent exhibitions at CERN. Here we followed the path of the particles from a bottle of hydrogen, through the network of accelerators and on to collisions inside vast experiment through interactive displays and information from some of the scientists who have worked there. The girls got to see the inside of the LHC and developed a better understanding of how the detectors work. There was also an outdoor area displaying accelerators of the past, some of which had the unearthly appearance of strange space vehicles.
We then headed over the road to the Globe. The size of the dome of Saint Peter’s in Rome, it hosts the “Universe of Particles” exhibition that takes visitors on a journey deep into the world of particles and back to the Big Bang. It is dark and cosy and beautifully lit (turquoise light photo). Here you can sit in a cosy pod to listen to the story of the Universe.
That night we had a jolly final meal together in a cosy restaurant in Geneva, many of the girls trying traditional local specialities such as fondue and raclette. It was early start again the next morning, as we caught the tram, a train, and plane and finally the school minibus to be back to Kilgraston in time for lunch! Phew, what an amazing trip!
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