Last weekend, our physicists had a smashing time with a visit to the European Centre for Nuclear Research (CERN), home of the largest physics experiment devised by humans, the Large Hadron Collider.
Our students were first given an inspiring introductory lecture by a CERN physicist. By accelerating beams of protons to high energies, then colliding them together inside large detectors, particle physicists aim to recreate the conditions soon after the Big Bang and discover new particles that may have existed in the early Universe. In doing so, they hope to refine our Standard Model of particle physics, and push the boundaries of our knowledge of dark matter.
We were shown the CERN Control Centre, from where the activities of the massive complex are coordinated, and given a glimpse at how the tunnels of the accelerator are constructed. Students were able to ask our guides, who were postdoctoral researchers linked to the main detectors, all
about the operation of the facility, and one tour guide commented how fantastic it was to hear such thoughtful questions from our Rossallians.
After the tour, we took the opportunity to explore the newly-built Exhibition Hall that housed many interesting hands-on demonstrations of particle physics, electromagnetism, superconductivity and quantum mechanics.
After our exciting visit to CERN, we spent the remainder of the trip taking in the sights of Geneva. We visited the Natural History Museum, which had an amazing collection of flora and fauna on display, saw the historic Saint Pierre Cathedral during a walk through the Old Town, and took a boat cruise on Lake Geneva. Students had the opportunity to try some Swiss hot chocolate, although most said they actually preferred the chocolate from our School Dining Hall! For our Saturday evening meal, we tasted some dishes not usually served at School – Swiss cheese fondue, frog legs and snails. Geneva city centre was wonderfully decorated for Christmastime, and we enjoyed strolling around the lakeside Christmas Markets and shopping for souvenirs before flying home.
Overall, it was an amazing trip made even more special by the excellent conduct and engagement of our students. We gained a really inspiring and fascinating insight into how an international community are all working to expand our knowledge and understanding of the Universe – kind of like what we do in Rossall’s Physics Department!
Thank you very much to all the pupils, parents and staff whose support made this experience possible.
– Dr Hughes