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Students Collide with Physics at CERN

'Anytime you are having to start a drive at four in the morning is hard but when you have a minibus of excited students it really does lift the spirits, and so it was in a very positive frame of mind that we left School for the trip to Luton airport to catch our flight to Geneva, home of Banks, Cuckoo clocks, very expensive chocolate and the world’s most complicated machine the Large Hadron Collider.

Taking off when we were still experiencing the tender mercies of Storm Doris was interesting, but soon we arrived in a very warm and sunny Geneva airport, boarded the very clean and on time train and made our way down town. Checking in to the hotel was straightforward and soon we were unpacked and heading out to get our bearings and meet up after a short stroll at one of the many fine museums in Geneva.

The evening saw us experience the Hotel Edelweiss and our cabaret of Accordion, spoons, Alpenhorn, trumpet, trombone and keyboard all played by two men, back to a well-deserved sleep and getting ready for the big day. Friday dawned and we were off to CERN the largest particle accelerator in the world. After the initial introduction by Dr Vincent Smith from University of Bristol we boarded our transport to building SM18, here they test the superconducting magnets (all 1232) of them before installation. Each magnet is nearly 1 million Euro’s each in cost, is 15 metres long and must experience temperatures colder than outer space and vacuums harder than interstellar space, so testing is very important before you install one of these in a 27 Km circular tunnel 100 metres below ground, not a trivial task itself.

After this we went off to the AMS building. The Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer is a particle detector that is based on the outside of the ISS, 400 Km out in space and is looking for dark matter and antimatter.  It is all controlled from the AMS centre and we watched as staff tasked the different parameters to change in an experiment in real time after receiving a very interesting briefing from one of the researchers who is based there for two years. At lunch in the Refectory surrounded by researchers and staff from the 22 signatory countries I heard at least six different languages being spoken. After lunch we toured the two permanent exhibition halls looking at both the past and future of CERN and it’s continuing mission of looking at both ends of the Physics spectrum; searching for the 80% of the Universe we cannot detect (yet...) and looking at the fundamental building blocks of our world, the particles inside the atoms.

After a day of mind bending science, Saturday was spent looking at Geneva from altitude after a trip up Mont Salève in the morning and from the water during an afternoon boat trip on Lake Geneva, giving us just enough time for the mandatory present/souvenir buying before our return to the airport for our return flight. After an uneventful return trip we arrived back at School by 11pm. Twenty one students from Cokethorpe in the Lower and Upper Sixth experienced Physics, Science, Engineering and scientific cooperation and collaboration of a world class standard and  I believe they enjoyed  the experience as much as I and Miss Siese did. They were a credit to School throughout.'

Mr Scurfield (Teacher of Physics)








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