Saturday, 24 April 2010
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.
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.