Upper Sixth visit CERN - Hurstpierpoint College

Upper Sixth visit CERN

The jet-setting Upper Sixth managed a day trip to Geneva to take in the wonder of the scientific and technological masterpiece that is the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN (the European Organisation for Nuclear Research).

It was the huge 15-tonne steel sculpture entitled Wandering the Immeasurable that first captured our students’ attention. Placed by the renowned Globe, it commemorates the discovery of the Higgs boson in 2012 and includes a number of key mathematical and physics equations – most of which our students recognised. Next was a brief journey through the history of the universe since the Big Bang via the immersive show in the Globe of Science and Innovation.

After a sumptuous lunch at the CERN cafeteria surrounded by the engineers, technicians and physicists who work at CERN, it was off to the interactive microcosm exhibit – a hands-on exploration of what the LHC is trying to discover and how it has been designed to work. The rest of the afternoon was spent attending a lecture and taking a guided tour. One of the many electrical engineers who works at CERN provided an overview of the scale of engineering involved in building the LHC and how scientists from around the globe collaborate on projects using the particle accelerator facilities. Our group experienced an immersive simulation of the historic Synchrocyclotron – the very first particle accelerator built at CERN back in the 1950s.

The tour continued at the Antimatter Factory where our students were given the amazing opportunity to walk in a particle decelerator chamber (due to the machine being offline for upgrade work at the time of our visit). Our guide had started work at CERN in the 1970s and was able to explain in detail how the research groups based in the antimatter facility are making antimatter hydrogen (antihydrogen) and using it to test how matter and antimatter might be different. The aim is to help answer one of the important questions from our past – why is the universe made of matter and not antimatter?

After a very quick look at Lake Geneva by the light of the Christmas decorations, it was time for dinner and our return journey home. The Upper Sixth gained some valuable real-world understanding of particle physics to support their A-level studies and hopefully some might be inspired to work at CERN in the future.

Naomi Smith, Head of Physics