Physics: Bede’s Pupils go back to the Big Bang

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Seventeen Bede's A level Physics students braved a 3.30am start to travel to the Large Hadron Collider near Geneva and back - for a day trip! - on Friday 12th April.

Arriving in Geneva at 9 there was time for a view of the famous water jet in the lake and to do some window shopping in the designer stores before travelling out of the city to CERN.

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Lunch in the bustling restaurant at the facility brought us shoulder to shoulder with Physicists and students from all over the world. We were told that over 100 languages are represented!

Our tour of the facility began with a presentation from one of the members of British staff who had been working there for over ten years.

The LHC is currently shut down for maintenance and upgrade, and this turned to our advantage as it meant that we were able to visit far more than we could during operations.

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The whole machine is a 9km diameter circle 100m underground and a coach took us to see two areas, first (over the border in France) a test building where the huge 35 tonne superconducting magnets are checked before use (over 1200 around the LHC). Then another coach journey brought us to CMS one of the locations where beams of particles travelling close to the speed of light (round the 27km track 11000 times each second) in opposite directions are collided to create conditions close to those of the Big Bang.

From the outside it seems like an unimposing factory in the French countryside. Once 120m underground and through the retina controlled security doors (currently wedged open) the first sight of the 15 meter diameter, 12 500 tonne detector is breath-taking.

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One of the particle physicists who works on the experiment then explained the details of how it was constructed.

Back on the coach we travelled back into Switzerland rather later than expected, which made for a slightly stressful bus journey through Geneva's rush hour, to get our flight with five minutes to spare!

It was a long day, an exhausting day, and a stressful day, but mostly it was a wonderfully inspirational day which has been endlessly described to anyone who will listen!

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Colin Hiscox

Head of Physics

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