Geneva is one of my least-favourite cities. I’m probably wrong, but it seems to be a boring place, saved only by its compact international airport which makes travel a breeze. Last weekend, I changed my mind thanks to CERN and their physics work. Physics is about as interesting to me as Geneva, but the staff make the subject accessible.
Booking tickets for the CERN Open Days weekend was frustrating and overly complicated, but it couldn’t have been easier on the day. At Point 6, we learnt about bending particle paths and particle disposal, as well as the enormous supply of helium required to run all these physics experiments. Our French guide compared the process to train tracks with a switch (except this switch lasts far less time than you can even imagine – a tiny fraction of a second).
We decided to go to Point 5 after, and although we had no tickets, we were able to queue and gain entrance. A high-on-physics Belgian explained all sorts of logistical information, such as how they use compressed air to move slices of the 14,000-tonne solenoid (pictured along with me!) ‘easily’ by hand. That’s almost twice as heavy as the Eiffel tower and it generates a magnetic field 100,000 times stronger than the Earth’s. There was everything from dry ice to face painting and everyone found something interesting to see and do.
A friend visited Point 4 and saw the spot where the explosion happened that closed down the site for a year soon after opening. Strangely, however, we saw the same thing at Point 6. My guess is they’ve made a few up to help please the crowd. Hey, physics is a hard subject: they’ve got to do what they can to entice us in!
Meanwhile, amongst all these impressive structures and stories was this lonesome sign. Can you guess what it is? I’ll let you know later in the week.