Exploring the Frontiers of Physics: A Journey to CERN in Geneva
CERN, Jet d’Eau, Botanical Gardens and much more
Twenty students studying Higher and Advanced Higher Physics were fortunate enough to be given the opportunity of a lifetime to visit CERN! For those who are not aware, CERN is an intergovernmental organisation that operates the world’s largest particle physics laboratory and was even the birthplace of the web. The prospect of fulfilling this lifelong dream delighted me, and the trip definitely didn’t disappoint.
Adrenaline-pumped and highly anticipated, we were so glad when we finally arrived at the Geneva Hostel on Friday night and could not wait to embark on a jam-packed adventure, of course after some well-deserved rest!
On Saturday, we had an early start and set off to CERN. Our day began with receiving our official CERN passes and lanyards—a keepsake that I am sure all of us will treasure—which made the whole experience even more surreal. We then headed to the CERN Globe Museum, which had an eye-catching visual projection depicting the Big Bang and the origin of our universe. It was particularly interesting to learn about dark energy, which was something many of us had heard of but didn’t know very much about before. We learned that measurements (based on the Hubble law), together with other scientific data, have confirmed the existence of dark energy, which makes up approximately 68% of the universe, and is a factor scientists believe is accelerating the expansion of the universe. Additionally, it was very interesting hearing about the future plans for CERN. While dark matter has not been detected at CERN (mainly because dark matter does not interact with the electromagnetic force and is therefore difficult to identify), further experiments at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) may provide more direct clues about it, helping physicists across the world gain a better understanding of the mysterious phenomenon that appears to make up much of the universe.
Afterwards, we headed to the gift shop, an essential CERN sweet spot that we simply couldn’t miss, where many of us bought the notoriously glorified bright blue “I LOVE CERN” t-shirts. After stopping for some lunch at the CERN café, we began our tour of the CERN accelerators. Our incredibly enthusiastic and knowledgeable tour guides were so inviting, answering all of our questions and keeping the tour entertaining as well as informative. We learned about the ELENA antimatter decelerator, how CERN recycles its materials, and Linac accelerators, which are particle accelerators that hugely increase the kinetic energy of charged subatomic particles or ions. I personally enjoyed learning about the LEIR (Low Energy Ion Ring) accelerator, which essentially receives long pulses of lead ions from Linear Accelerator 3 (Linac 3) and transforms them into short, dense bundles suitable for injection into the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). As well as this, as an aspiring medical student, I found it especially intriguing to learn about how antiprotons could potentially one day be used to treat cancer.
Once we finished our tour and took a couple of group photos at the iconic site, we headed back to the hostel for a quick recharge before taking a leisurely stroll along the Rhone River shortly after. We thought that the gorgeous ambience established by the blissful breeze and sweet smells of ice cream couldn’t get any better. But that was until we were beheld by the mesmerising fountain of Jet d’Eau. The monumental fountain, shooting water 140 metres high up in the air, propels 500 litres of water per second, which is ejected at a speed of 200 km/h! Finally, after walking around the lively town as we saw the sun go down and the sky start to turn rose pink, we all went to get dinner at a bijou restaurant near the glistening river. Many of us enjoyed the delectable cuisine the restaurant had to offer, ranging from pizza to risotto. It was a lovely dining experience that made the day that much better.
On Sunday, many of us woke up with a bittersweet feeling, knowing that it would be our last day to immerse ourselves in the unique Swiss culture. We began the day by exploring some of the other renowned sites in Geneva, including the Broken Chair monument, which is located opposite the United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG), the Museum of Science, and the Botanical Gardens, which had such an exotic and vibrant aura. We then ended our extraordinary trip by taking a quick boat ride to the other side of the town, where we spent some time relaxing after a busy few days and took in the picturesque scenery and beautiful sun, which was a short-lived luxury. It was the perfect ending to the perfect weekend!
On behalf of all the students who went on the trip, I would like to thank the incredible physics department for organising such an enjoyable, educational, and inspirational trip. It was truly an unforgettable experience.