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Ten upper sixth physics pupils spent an enjoyable two days in Switzerland. The main highlight was a visit to the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (known as CERN), located on the outskirts of Geneva. CERN operates the largest particle physics laboratory in the world and has made notable recent discoveries such as the Higgs Boson.

With an early start, no packed lunches, and lack of a minibus driver, odds were stacked against the group but, thanks to Mr Lang, who added the role of chauffeur to his existing one of ‘tour leader’, we made it to the airport in good time.

Having arrived in Geneva, we spent the afternoon visiting the European Headquarters of the United Nations, which contributes significantly to the organisation’s efforts to maintain international peace and security, to protect and promote human rights, and to eradicate poverty – to mention just a few of its tasks.

The second day was spent at the CERN facility. CERN is the body founded in 1952 with the mandate of establishing a world-class fundamental physics research organisation in Europe. At that time, pure physics research concentrated on understanding the inside of the atom. Today, CERN’s understanding of matter goes much deeper than the nucleus, and its main area of research is particle physics – the study of the fundamental constituents of matter and the forces acting between them. There’s a 27-kilometre Large Hadron Collider (LHC), which is the world’s largest particle accelerator. It collides protons at energies approaching the speed of light.

At CERN we were given a talk on how a particle accelerator works and some of the massive engineering hurdles that had to be overcome to build the LHC. We were allowed access to one of the four large detectors at CERN called Compact Muon Solenoid or CMS. CMS is a particle detector that is designed to see a wide range of particles and phenomena produced in high-energy collisions in the LHC. Imagine it as a cylindrical onion, different layers of detectors measure the different particles produced from the collision, and use this key data to build up a picture of events at the heart of the collision. The scientists at CERN hope this data will enable them to address questions such as ‘What is the Universe really made of and what forces act within it?’

Other highlights were an evening boat trip on Lake Geneva, city sightseeing, and the many free ice creams courtesy of Mr Lang.

The group would like to thank Mr Lang and Mrs Latchford for organising a fantastic trip.

Photographer: Matt Lang