College Physics Trip to CERN, Switzerland
On 16th January, our Year 12 & 13 A Level Physics students had the privilege widen their horizons outside the classroom to visit CERN, an organisation for Nuclear Research, located in Switzerland on the French border.
Year 12 student, Sami A gives an account of the trip below.
After an early start meeting at Gatwick Airport, we boarded our flight at 12.40pm. From the sights of Mont Blanc to the view of Lac Léman (Lake Geneva) on the plane, it proved to be an excellent start to our journey. The bus outside the airport took us through the city, stopping at our first destination, Chaise Cassée. It’s a wooden sculpture of a broken chair that symbolises opposition to land mines and cluster bombs; a fact that was required for our quiz later in the evening.
We then arrived at and checked into the Geneva Hostel, our accommodation for the night. An early dinner was soon served – either chicken or fish served with rice, salad and an optional slice of bread. Then we set off to enjoy our free time, splitting into groups and exploring Geneva. The rain had already started and my group made our way to a mall and a souvenir shop. We headed back to the hostel in time for the quiz. The topics were general knowledge, sports, geography and physics. It was a great way to get the group together for some fun. We went to bed around 10.30pm, ready to wake up early the next day for the busy day ahead.
We departed the hostel at 8am, walked to Cornavin tram stop and made the 14-stop journey to Meyrin, CERN. The 3-hour tour began, guided by Dr Mick Storr. We were given a video introduction to watch at the start, and he gave us a great insight into CERN, telling us their mission, goals and achievements. CERN provide a unique range of particle accelerator facilities, they carry out world-class research in fundamental physics, and unite people from all over the world to work on their project. We were given an in-depth explanation on many topics such as the World Wide Web, invented by Tim Berners Lee, whilst working at CERN in 1989. The tour guide took us to the Data Centre, which is the heart of CERN’s scientific, administrative and computing infrastructure. I learnt that there are around half a million processor cores and 10,000 servers running 24/7 there. The next stop was the Antimatter Factory, storing ELENA (an extra low energy antiproton ring) and the Antiproton Decelerator. I found out that not all accelerators increase a particle's speed. This slows down antiprotons so they can be used to study antimatter.
The tour then finished, and snow had fallen quite a bit. We ran to the tram which took us back to the city centre where we had an hour of free time. Soon it was time to get on the bus and make our way to the United Nations office. We walked past the famous Broken Chair again, and behind it were the flags of 193 Member States and 2 Observer States - the Holy See and the State of Palestine. The tour guide welcomed us around as we visited the amazing Room XIX and the Human Rights and Alliance of Civilizations Room, which has a €20 million ceiling.
Here, our time in Switzerland was complete, and it was time to head back to Geneva Airport. We passed through security and spent some time in the shops. Our last hurdle was Passport Control. Waiting in the queue for a while, I finally went to the officer behind the desk and handed my passport. He stared at me in silence for a good 5 seconds waiting for me to speak, so I said “bonjour” to him in the most confused way. He got more suspicious of me but eventually we got through. The gate was starting to close; it was the last call but we made it. Gate C59, Geneva to Gatwick. We boarded the plane and arrived back in London at 7.30pm.
It was an incredible experience. From the rainy and snowy weather to traffic light mayhem, to nearly missing the flight, the two days were unforgettable. Thank you to the Physics Department for organising this trip and also to Mrs Speechly and Mr Gardner for taking the Year 12 and 13 students.
Sami A, Year 12