Visit to CERN

Monday

I left Caerphilly at 2am to head to Gatwick for my flight to Geneva. After a 2 hour delay to the flight I finally arrived in my room at CERN at 4pm.

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I then attended a welcome meeting with the 50 other teachers on the course in the evening.

 

Tuesday

Today was a much more interesting day; we started off with 3 hours of lectures followed by some visits in the afternoon. The first lecture was a general over view of what they do at CERN and how it was started.

 

The second lecture was done by a theoretical physicist who works on cosmology. This is the study of how the universe was formed, how it has evolved and what is going to happen to it. He was really interesting as he discussed how the universe was formed and the evidence that supports it. He was very excited because in 3 weeks they will receive the first data from the James Webb telescope and he hopes that this will bring some amazing new discoveries.  He also discussed the problems with dark energy, he said they think they understand what dark matter is, but dark energy is a massive problem in theoretical physics. In fact he said that they try not to think about it because it causes so many problems. I thought this was really interesting as he quiet openly admitted that this energy that makes up 70% must be there, but they have no idea what it is.

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In the afternoon we started off with little hands on project in which we built a cloud chamber (I will do this when I get back to school as it was awesome). The cloud chambers allowed us to watch the tracks left by muons that have travelled through space and come into our atmosphere. These muons are subatomic particles that are created when high energy cosmic rays enter our atmosphere and decay into smaller particles. These cosmic rays originate from outside our solar system in giant super novae and we can see them in the classroom, this is amazing. These muons are also proof of Einstein’s theory of special relativity, under general physics these muons should not reach the Earth surface as classical physics says they should only travel 660m not the 24 miles to the surface of the Earth because they decay in 0.0000022 seconds. They can only reach the surface if Einstein was right and as you approach the speed of light times slows down. This means that for the muon one second lasts a lot longer than one second on the Earth and this allows them to reach the surface.

We then went on a small tour of some of the facilities, the tour was taken by a gentleman called Claus who had worded at CERN for 60 years, he had worked with 6 Nobel Prize winners. He was explaining that a lot of the equipment and accelerators at CERN are quiet old now but still working because they were so far ahead of their time when they were built. The machine below is used to create antimatter; in 1975 it created the first 9 anti-hydrogen atoms to ever exist in the UNIVERSE!!!

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Claus also gave us some insider information, he believes his friend who works on the anti – matter accelerators will make the next huge discovery in Physics. He explained that his friend’s solution so elegantly unifies all the theories in Physics that it cannot be a coincidence. He will be starting his experiments to see if his theory holds in the next 6 months. This is a very exciting time.

From here we went to see how they put the magnets together that help guide and focus the beam as it travels around the LHC. I cannot go into the detail of what they do here as it would take me a week to write. I have put some pictures and if anyone is interested or has any questions you can come and ask me when I get back.

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