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Saturday, 24 April 2010

An Underground Adventure



CERN has been in the news quite a bit over the last couple of years, thanks to the starting (and stopping, and restarting...) of experiments with the Large Hadron Collider.

One of the main news stories has been about whether this new high-energy collider is going to create a black hole that will swallow the earth (don't panic; it won't).

Even though I'm not 'in' physics any more, I follow news from CERN with interest. Partly because I'm still a total physics geek at heart, and partly because I've been there.

While I was studying for my A levels, I went on two school trips to Switzerland to visit this particle physics lab. As a geeky teenager, it was just about the most exciting trip I could have imagined. We even got to go into the tunnels.

Inside the CERN tunnel
Grainy photo from my non-digital camera,
taken in January 2000

The tunnel, which houses the actual particle accelerator, is 17 miles (27km) in circumference and runs under the border between Switzerland and France. It's such a big circle that any given section almost looks straight, from inside.

When I was first there, in 2000, the LEP (an electron collider) was still running, but parts of the LHC were starting to be moved in. I had a feeling that I was watching history in the making; ten years later, we're finally close to seeing the fruits of those labours.

I'd love to go back one day.

22 comments:

Anything Fits a Naked Man said...

Wow! Fascinating! Thanks so much for sharing this! Also, so glad we won't be sucked into a black hole! Yay!!

Maureen said...

Very interesting! Thanks for sharing this. I just did a job interview and test at a Switzerland company and sooo hoping I'll get the job lol.

Happy SITS Saturday Sharefest from Indonesia!

Karen said...

I know very little about physics, but seeing the Hadron Collider is on my bucket list!

Stephanie V said...

I'm a decidedly non-physics type person and I am somewhat green with envy. I have always wanted to tour the TRIUMF particle accelerator at the University of British Columbia. Since it contributes to the work of CERN I'm sure you've heard of it, too.

Writing Without Periods! said...

I've never heard about this before. Thanks. I love learning new things.
Mary

Embraced Chaos said...

Hi. Thanks for stopping by my site. Funny... I'm craving cupcakes now too!
Your post is very interesting. I'd never heard of this before. Love reading about your adventures.
Sheri
www.embracedchaos.com

Tortuga said...

My Hubby teaches college physics. He is officially jealous, haha.

What an awesome experience!

Tabor said...

So you have a geeky physics bent. Who knew? Not me I guess. You don't write like a geek, but then, how does a geek write?

Diane said...

Well i have absolutely NO IDEA what you are talking about but I have a feeling you might LOVE my son's blog (talkingnerdy.com). there's a similar level of complexity, unknown percentage of vocabulary and nerdiness. Happy Saturday Sharefest from a SISTA. I enjoyed reading this even if I didn't understand it all. For much simpler content--drop by my blog any day. dianeswords.wordpress.com
Have a great day!

Chef E said...

There is that wee bit of a phyics geek in this big adventurer :)

Do you know the Alwee (sp?) in Ireland? I went on the tour, the guide gives you a flashlight? Did you have a flash light when you went in there?

Okay, now you have stirred yet another cup of Irish coffee in me mind!

Also, did you ever hear of the Atom maker in Texas, Super Colider, Waxahachie TX, it put a lot of people out of work, and turned into a ghost town, well kind of more like a one horse red neck kind of town :)

ScoMan said...

You don't have to be a physics geek to find this exciting.

Just the regular kind of geek will do.

Sure most of the stuff they talk about might go over my head, but I'm learning, and I'm very interested in the project.

Bibliomama said...

I think physics is the most arts-friendly of the sciences -- uncertainty! quarks named Charm and Strange! collapsing wavefront probabilities! Do you watch The Big Bang Theory? They had an episode about Cern and the Hadron Collider a few weeks ago that was grapefruit-juice-out-the-nose-worthy.

smilla4blogs said...

Thank you for a most unusual view of 17 miles most people never see in a lifetime!

I hope you got that last page written and are celebrating. Congratulations!

Sara said...

This might be a little off the subject, but did you ever make those biscuits?

Kazzy said...

I love that you are a physics geek! And that would be very cool to go and see!

Jack said...

That is very cool. I have several friends who work as astrophysicists, so I hear about this sort of thing semi consistently.

Dedene said...

The CERN is fascinating. It could be the answer to the world's energy woes.

Jen said...

It's hard not to worry after Three Mile Island and Chernobyl.

JoeyRes said...

We watched Hollywood's spin on this technology not too long ago. My husband was into very eerily telling me that they really have one, black holes, ooga booga....

I feel reassured that you say the earth won't be swallowed.

A 2 Z said...

Thanks Rachel,

I really thought that the tunnel would be bigger in circumference. The many times I saw it on the tube I felt it was enormous. You are really lucky to have had the chance to visit it. 17 miles long is really something. I would not like the be an inspector working at CERN having to supervise it LOL I would feel a bit claustrophobic working there or fearing falling in a black hole LOL

Fly Girl said...

Now that's an unforgatteable trip. I'm a total science dunce but this sounds fascinating even to me.

Holly said...

It is pretty cool that you were given the chance to experience that...very cool!

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