During half term, a group of twenty Year 13 Physics students were given the amazing opportunity to go on a brief trip to Switzerland, during which we visited the CERN project, and nearby Geneva. For those who aren’t familiar with CERN, it is the European Organization for Nuclear Research where physicists and engineers explore the fundamental basics of the universe. Since its foundation in 1954, this has involved many impressive developments, from producing antiatoms and discovering pentaquarks, to accelerating particles to almost the speed of light, and colliding protons so that energy is converted into mass (creating new particles) to mimic the Big Bang. The 22 member states, and over 2500 physicists and engineers who work at CERN are continually finding new projects, stretching the boundaries of what is considered possible, and it is very exciting to think that there will always be more to be discovered, and that one day perhaps the future physicists and engineers from Twyford may have a part in it.
The trip began on the Monday, meeting at Heathrow Airport at 7am to catch our flight to Geneva where we then had a couple of hours exploring the city before going to our youth hostel in Nyon. We spent the rest of our day in this small town by the Lake Geneva, and many of us enjoyed a lovely meal together in a cute restaurant by the lake, one of the few reasonably priced establishments in the notoriously expensive country! The next day we visited CERN itself, where we walked around their museum and attended a short talk, before beginning our tour of the site itself. First, we looked at some equipment from the LHC (Large Hadron Collider) where our tour guide described the process of accelerating the particles through an entertaining variety of similes, such as comparing the magnetic fields guiding the protons to a sheepdog herding sheep! I was continually astounded by the magnitude of what went on, from the infinitesimal size of the protons (0.85x10-15m radius) which travelled at 99.9999% of the speed of light (3.0x108ms-1), to the -271.3°C temperature of the magnets (colder than space) which changed polarity at a rapid rate. We were then taken across the border to France to see the CERN Control Centre. Here we were given a talk explaining the physics of what they do, using a large touchscreen that turned out to be one of the first ever touchscreens created, and could turn see-through to become a window looking into the office from which everything is controlled...not what you expect to find within a small lecture room! Above the LHC control desk lay the most accurate record of when their scientific developments took place, in the form of a row of empty champagne bottles with post-its on for every record broken! We then ate lunch in the cafeteria surrounded by all the researchers and walked around another CERN museum, before returning to Geneva for free time. Students enjoyed visiting many great landmarks within the city, from the UN Headquarters to botanical gardens and a 140m high water fountain (Jet d’Eau). The next day we were up very early again to go to the airport and travel home, exhausted from two days in a row of getting up at 5 Swiss time (4am in England!!) but all feeling satisfied after a very enjoyable trip.
I would like to say a massive thankyou from all of us to Mr Jones, Dr Lawson and Dr Sanghera for taking us, as the trip was truly inspiring, and I would thoroughly recommend it to anyone else who has the opportunity to go!
By Naomi-Ruth Bookless