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DGS visits CERN!

Posted on: 25/02/2019

On Thursday the 31st of January we - Jessica Fuller, Lucy Coull, Heidi Omar and Eloise Boyd with Dr Naylor and Dr Nickerson - were given the opportunity to visit CERN. This is a science facility in Geneva that is home to several particle accelerators including the Large Hadron Collider.

On the first day, we arrived at school at 3:15 am so that we could catch our 8am flight from Luton to Geneva. Our flight was delayed by an hour as the plane had to be de-iced before we could take off! We then had to get public transport to CERN from the airport, which was an interesting experience as we had never been to Geneva before.

After some lunch, we visited the Data Centre. This is where all the information from experiments is filtered to find important data and then stored, with a second back-up copy also being made. These back-up copies are still made on tape as many of the original systems that were used when the Data Centre was first set up are still in use.

For the next part of the visit the group was split up as there was an age regulation that meant visitors had to be 16 years or older. My group went to a talk about a project one person at CERN has taken on in his free time where he is trying to create a cosmic ray detector that people can build themselves to have in their homes. The plan will be to set up a webpage that can collate this data which CERN will use to work out where these rays are coming from. Whilst collecting important data for CERN, this will also be a fun project that can help teach children about physics and electronics.

We then got the opportunity to join back up with the rest of the group and visit the CERN control centre. This is one of the most important rooms at CERN and is often referred to as the brain of CERN. In the evening we had dinner with some young female scientists, engineers and technicians working, and learnt about what they do and their route into their current roles at CERN.

The following day, we set off in the rain and snow to visit more of CERN. We saw an alpha magnetic spectrometer which is looking for anti-matter and dark matter from a module on the international space station and filters through particles in space. Here, we also saw a live-feed of an astronaut working on the space station!

Afterwards, we went to the neutrino platform which is part of a project which consists of two neutrino detectors placed in the world’s most intense neutrino beam. It is trying to understand the role of neutrinos in the universe by sending intense beams of particles to detectors, which will catch neutrinos and antineutrinos in the hope to understand more about them.

We then visited a site called ALICE, which stands for A Large Ion Collider Experiment. This detects quark gluon plasma, which is state of matter thought to have formed after the big bang. Through this, scientists can discover more about what started the universe. ALICE receives beams from the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) detector, which recreates conditions of the big bang by providing collisions of lead ions.

Finally, we visited CMS. This uses a huge solenoid magnet that bends the path of particles from the LHC. This was one of the highlights of the trip as the intricate design showed just how much time and thought went into the project. It is constructed 15 stories below ground and is 21 metres long, 15 metres high and 15 metres wide. This incredible structure takes over 4300 physicists, engineers, technicians and more from 42 different countries.

This brought us to the end of our trip. It was an incredible experience that we will remember for a long time and are very thankful to have had this opportunity.

Lucy Coull, 11LNP and Jess Fuller, 11RXN

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