Sixth Form Physics: Trip to CERN

After meeting up at school, registers and distributing the official trip hoodies, our trip started off as we meant to go on and with Swiss precision we arrived at Berkswell train station with 45 seconds to spare! A train and a monorail jaunt later, our first hurdle was over and everyone made it to the airport with plenty of time for a Burger King and full English breakfast.

The flight went well and we took advantage of the city’s fantastic 100% free public transport, arriving at our hostel and acclimatising to our new surroundings.

CERN Trip Eventually everyone was settled in to their accommodation in the hotel in the beautiful setting of Mont Blanc on one side and Lake Geneva on the other.

Gathering the students together we undertook a mammoth trek to the famous Geneva Flower clock, which boasts the biggest second hand in the world. Many of the students seemed to prefer the convenience of fast food in the form of a £15 McDonald’s or sandwich! Some of the more culinary and cultured students opted for a Swiss banquet including Octopus.

Bowling ensued after another free tram ride, one of the highlights being Freddie Fox losing his ball and footing simultaneously. Video evidence from the other students means he may never live it down.

The first night was relatively quiet for the staff, but maybe that was the benefit of staying on a separate floor.

All students eventually made it to breakfast, which was a standard continental affair. We spent the morning walking around the lake, through the botanical gardens via the History of Science museum and towards the UN.

CERN Trip - UNThe UN was quite a sight and as there were peace talks going on inside there was a large media presence. There may well be some international news coverage of British teenagers helping a small contingent of peace protestors whose flags were blowing away in the wind, perhaps this highlights Heart of England students’ compassion and consideration for their fellow humans.

After an already busy schedule we were ready to head to the main attraction – CERN. The European Centre of Nuclear Research, home to the world wide web and the ‘God Particle’.

CERN Trip - electron trailsThe Microcosm exhibition is where we started, an interactive and informative presentation of the type of work that goes on there and some of the discoveries and breakthroughs that have been made. Followed by lunch in the CERN cafeteria, eating Rabbit and chips with Doctors of Physics and Nobel Prize winners.

We were given a presentation and a tour of some of the less secure parts of the site including ‘The Anti-Matter Factory’ and particle decelerators. Unfortunately we were unable to see the world famous LHC (Large Hadron Collider) where the Higgs Boson Particle was recently discovered as it was active and performing experiments whilst we were there.

CERN Trip - no entryOne tour guide sounded suspiciously like Alexander the Meer-Kat or a James Bond villain, and was happy to reel off a few lines to make the students laugh. A particularly memorable moment saw us all in front of an ominous looking door that read ‘When Red light show, Radiation is active, do not enter, chance of death’, to which our tour guide said (in thick Ukrainian accent) “Light is on, but nobody here, I go check, if I die – don’t follow, if I come back then we look.” Hopefully this was all for show.

CERN Trip - deceleratorThe students really seemed engaged and astounded by the sheer scale of what was going on at this facility and were amazed to hear stories of new particles being created, 99.9999% of the speed of light being reached, and actual worm holes being opened at CERN. For all of us it was an experience that will never be forgotten.

Jerry Crawford, Science Teacher

Photographs by Joe Beresford, Year 12