The CERN Laboratory
10.11.14 - 10.11.14 68 °F
Our main purpose in coming to Geneva was to visit the CERN Laboratory, which is celebrating its 50th birthday. For anyone with some knowledge and interest in sub-atomic physics, this is Mecca, as it is the largest accelerator in the world. It is currently in a shutdown conducting some repairs and upgrades. The good news is that we were able to descend the 100 meters into the ground to see the huge detector assembly where the counter rotating proton beams collide. It's a wonderful display of superconductivity, supercooling to within a few degrees of absolute zero and the study of the origins of the universe. The beams consist of bunches of electron stripped protons (10 to the 11th power protons per bunch) about 7 centimeters long and 5 microns wide. When they have reached an energy of 3.4 TeV they magnetically steer the beams to collide within the detector assembly and let the interactions play out for about 10 hours, when the proton population gets low enough to make further interactions impractical. To cool the rings/beams to 1.7 Kelvin requires using 150 tons of liquified helium. It was a fascinating day. My brain was 'full' by the end!