Last week I had the amazing opportunity to visit CERN in Switzerland and see some of the experiments that go on and well as a tour of the complex.
This trip was organised by our Physics Department society: PhySoc. The great thing was that it was very much subsidised partly by out department and also some by the Institute of Physics (IoP). There was about 18 of us and we drove all the way there on the minibus with designated drivers through France and then to Switzerland.
We took the euro tunnel and overall it took about 12 hours, I have to say the trip as much fun as the tour of CERN itself. Mainly because of the scenery and also the fact that your stuck with people in the age vehicle for 12 hours you get to learn a lot of new things.
I'd like to clear some misconceptions that some people might have about CERN. Firstly, it's gigantic! I mean you can't appreciate it's size until you start to drive around the complex from one building to another and it takes over 20 mins to get there and it's not a diameter path you're taking, but just an arc.
Secondly, you can too soon into the tunnel like the presenters do, unless you've got special access. You can't even go into the detector region when it's pulled apart (the famous picture of the huge detector with a man in the middle showing the shear size of it, instead it's covered by a huge, probably around 30m squared sliding concrete floor which only opens when the lhc is turned off.
Lastly, the whole complex isn't blocked off, only small perimeters around buildings are. There's towns, villages and industrial estates scattered around inside and around the lhc. One last note; the LHC is the largest particle accelerator, 9km diameter, while CERN is the name of the whole complex and organisation that runs the lhc and other projects.
Geneva is quite an expensive city and you can also get quite bored, so if on visiting CERN and then staying in Geneva afterwards, I would highly recommend pre organising some activities. Still it's a beautiful as it was one a the few places that avoided bombing during WW2, due to that fact that it was sheltered by the Alps, so all the buildings reflect Imperial Europe architecture.
Been to CERN or Switzerland, what was your experience?
Graduated with a BSc in Physics at the University of Surrey and an MSc in Applied Geophysics at the IDEA League.