Friday, May 26, 2017

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.  

No comments: