Friday, May 26, 2017

Grumpy in Geneva - An Alex Story on Bridge Day

One of the mysteries of children is why they are so grumpy during vacations.  I believe that this is not unique to our family.  Or at least I sincerely hope that is the case and it's not that our child is broken.  Alex is 9 now, but still can't seem to handle vacationing.

Our setting is the city of Geneva, after we visited CERN, on the Bridge Day that comes between the Ascension Holiday and the weekend. After sternly talking to Alex about his attitude, he tries to pretend that he is actually having an "ok" time. We decided to take a bunch of pictures with one of the bridges in Geneva.

Smile!  It's bridge day!

A bridge!

To further improve Alex's energy level and to mood, we found ice cream.  This appears to have worked as you can tell by Alex's thumbs up.  (But as parents know, it's all an illusion of happiness that passes after the sugar crash.)

Ice Cream Bridge Picture

Will helped us out too to try to improve Alex's mood.  He suggested taking a funny picture of Alex when they saw the giant water spout, Jet D'eau, coming out of the lake.

It's pouring on my head!

We also decided to take a break in the park along the water front.  Cooler and shady, it improved Alex's mood a little.  He became slightly more calme.  As you can tell next to this sculpture of "Alexandre Calame."

Je suis M. Calme

In the end, none of this worked.  We went to dinner at a fondue place where both boys got in on the vacation-stress-causing by complaining about the smell of the cheese.  So we ate and went back to our Air BnB.  

The solution?  We will let you know when we figure out how to have a lovely vacation that everyone can enjoy.  The secret formula may involve scavenger hunts.  Although, since they don't seem to enjoy anything we try to make fun for them, perhaps there is only one option.  We will make them only do what we want.  I'm pretty sure that's what our parents did with us when we were kids.  

The Secret of CERN - How to Get In

The Game of Getting Tickets

In order for an individual to get a ticket to tour CERN, you have to go on their web site at 8:30am and request tickets 15 days prior to when you want to visit.  The tickets get gobbled up quickly.  If you miss this window, they also open tours 3 days prior to each date.  So for the longest time, I was trying to match up when we could travel to Switzerland to when the tickets were available.  I was having trouble with train prices or flight arranging.  Finally we decided to drive and go for the long weekend at the end of May.  But, somewhere in my head, I remembered the 15 days ticket acquisition period as two weeks.  So when I went on their site 14 days prior to Friday, the 26th of May, there were not any tickets left.

Blah!  So we decided to try the 3-days-ahead-of-time option.  As I am always dropping the kids off at school at 8:30, Dan diligently sat down in front of the computer on Tuesday at 8:25 and SUCCESSFULLY booked the tour tickets for Friday.  We quickly booked an available Air BnB.  

Thursday was a bank holiday here and Friday was a bridge day.  But CERN was open for business on the bridge day!

We checked into our Air BnB (in France, about 10 minutes away from the visitor center for CERN), and grabbed lunch before heading to the afternoon tour.  

The tour started by visiting the first accelerator built back in the 50's, The Proton Synchrotron.  The tour was bathed in an eerie blue light.  

Proton Accelerator Selfie

Will's First Photo with Accelerator

The tour had a cool movie that was projected on the different parts of the accelerator, showing which parts were the magnets and how the particles are actually accelerated.  There were also a bunch of physicists' photos on the wall.  Does anyone know which physicist is shown here?

Alex Being Difficult in Front of Physicists' Photos

After the initial introduction to accelerating protons, we headed outside, towards The Large Hadron Collider.  As it is underground, it is not really viewable.  Fortunately, there was a life-sized painting on the building that shows us the scale.  This is of the ATLAS detector, just one of the detectors that does measuring and recording of data around the 27km perimeter of the collider.

Life-Sized Painting of the Detector

Next to the building, we saw tanks that contained the particles... before they get accelerated.  

Argon, Nitrogen, Carbon Dioxide

Inside, we got to watch another video about the creation, transportation, and assembly of ATLAS.  Like most of what happens at CERN, it was a joint project between many countries.  Many of the large pieces were manufactured somewhere else and then were transported to their final burial place at CERN.  Of the scientists who work at CERN, there are over 100 nationalities represented.  It's a massive, peaceful collaboration that shows that people can actually work together to discover new things.  

After learning about the accelerator and the detectors, we went upstairs to see the control room of the LHC.  It reminded me of my last job when tours of the facility would come through and we would have to pretend we were doing normal work while being observed.  It was a room of scientists and screens.  

The kids found the interactive exhibit that allowed them to analyze the images of particles and see if they could spot instances of the Higgs boson.  

 After the tour, we went inside the globe building and saw The Universe of Particles Exhibit. It was a movie that happened all around in the domed room about where particles come from.  Alex was completely exhausted by this point, so we decided to depart after taking a pic at the photo opp accelerator tube.  

Alex in Space Invaders Shirt

The Secret of CERN - No Tickets Necessary

So, it turns out that CERN has Permanent Exhibits that you can visit without tickets.  It's only the tour that requires tickets.  The primary exhibit that tells you all about CERN in museum format is called Microcosm.  It has a bunch of exhibits.  They show the path of a particle as it goes through the different stages of acceleration.  They also have a cloud chamber that detects the cosmic rays that are hitting us constantly.   

On Saturday, we went back for a second, ticket-free, day at CERN.  We checked out the museum part as well as the sculpture garden part of their exhibitions. 

Will examined the cloud chamber as it detected cosmic rays.  

Look!  A Muon!

The wire chamber that was used when the weak force particles, W and Z were discovered was on display.

Posing with Equipment Responsible for Nobel Prize 1984

We get to touch scientific equipment!

I pushed a button!

One of the most fascinating things about all of the equipment was that the wires were so organized and pretty.  Even when they were grouped together with zip ties, they were super organized and lovely.

Organized Wires 

The "sculpture garden" is actually a bunch of old equipment that was used between 1964 and 1998, now on display outside.

Bubble Chamber

Scientific Tool or Actual Sculpture?

It Came From... Science!

More Scientific Tools

The boys used this outside time to play king of the scientific rock.  

I am king!
We have both won! 

And before we left the exhibition, we were sure to check to see if any Pokemon were around.  Obviously, we found Pikachu.  

Jump for Accelerated Particles!

On the way out, we stopped at the giant actual sculpture...

...where Will contemplated Life, the Universe, and Everything while surrounded by equations.

 If you are anywhere near Geneva, check out CERN.  They are open Monday-Friday, and Saturday mornings.  It's an easy trip, a short museum visit, and an amazing atmosphere.  The gift store is also pretty awesome.  We picked up some magnets that represent the different sub-atomic particles, a CERN polo, and a comic book about particles.  

If you want to learn more about CERN and the scientists who work there, you could get this book.

Because even if you are a particle physicist, you still need to come back to the real world sometimes and figure out how to use the coffee machine.  

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Lyon for a Day - Secret Passages and Grumpy Alex

The holiday weekend arrived!  However, instead of celebrating a long weekend for Memorial Day with Monday off, we get to celebrate Ascension on Thursday with a "Bridge Day" holiday to bridge the gap between Ascension and the weekend.

Kroboth Car Trip!

Rather than fight traffic on Wednesday evening, we opted to leave at 6:30am on Thursday morning.  We were off to Lyon!  Traffic was not a problem and we enjoyed the lovely scenery of the French countryside.

Upon arrival in Lyon, we found a parking place near our Air BnB, then, since we were a bit early for check-in, looked for lunch.  Dan had found a place that we were headed towards, but as we looked across the street, we saw a page from our French Text book from our course that Dan and I took together.

It was a building that had been an old train station and was converted into a place with restaurants.  This is clearly the east side of the building.  For class, we had to talk about the different characteristics of the restaurant and the types of food offered.  We ended up getting delicious chicken, shrimp, pasta.  Inside the restaurant was a small train that traveled around a track above.  Much like the French lesson had described, it was good, but pricey.

Next, we headed toward the Rosa Mir Garden.  We took a bus, the metro, and we walked.  However, we had failed to check the opening hours on the garden.  It's only open one day a week.  And it was not Thursday.  So, we stopped by a tiny park and let the kids play for a short time.

Unfortunately, park playtime combined with the heat of the day did nothing to help their mood.  Alex spent the next few hours being super grumpy.

No Pictures Allowed!

Will was fine, he decided it would be interesting to take some pictures of strange graffiti he found throughout Lyon.  At least, when Alex wasn't actively trying to block him.

Lyon has a fascinating feature.  It seems that during the silk trade, merchants wanted to keep their fragile merchandise safe and developed a series of passages throughout the city.  We explored a couple of them.  One was marked by a blue lion and had some giant stairs built into the wall.  Many of them go through to people's houses, so Alex had to stop complaining for a little bit (yea).  They were really neat and I wish we could have explored more.

Next, we went to the basilica.  To get up the hill to the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière, we took the funicular, which was much better than walking up.  

Nearby, not too far from the basilica, were some amazing Roman ruins.  Because Rome was huge and reached into France.

Still used today for concerts and shows

Alex with a slightly improved mood, Will feeling silly

Don't worry, he didn't get hurt while climbing around the ruins

For dinner, we took the kids to Hard Rock Cafe Lyon.  Ever since we introduced them to Hard Rock in Copenhagen, they have been super excited every time we have found one.  They have even asked if Hard Rock Cafes exist in the US and were surprised that we had never taken them to the closest one to our house, Hard Rock Hollywood.  :)

Dan and I had delicious French food at a different restaurant.  Because Lyon is known for its food and we just couldn't eat American food at Hard Rock.

Duck with carrots and potatoes

Dan eating duck with carrots and potatoes

Ice Cream, caramel, apple dessert

Completion to Lyon Visit

We spent the night in Lyon and left the next morning after eating some pain au chocolat pastries in the park.  The park was huge and we didn't get to explore it all, but we found some deer and emus.

Pic with deer 

The emu actually was quite far away, but then he heard Alex whistling and decided that was his cue to fun across the field and check out the child in orange.

Emu and Deer

After a peaceful park visit, we said good bye to Lyon and continued on our holiday weekend adventure.