Physics trip to CERN, Geneva

All of the way through Higher physics last year, the class joked about going to visit the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland to aid our study and understanding of the Fundamental Particles unit. Although the original idea was just an amusing thought, we didn’t expect that we would actually be going on a four day trip to Switzerland…

 So on the 26th February, the Advanced Higher class along with some students from the Higher Physics classes along with Physics PT Mr Sharkey and Rector Mr O’Neill caught a midnight bus down to Edinburgh Airport for our 6am flight to Geneva. Such an early flight allowed us to have four full days in Geneva and to pack in lots during the time available.

On the first day, we deposited our suitcases at Geneva Youth Hostel, just yards from Lake Geneva and took a walk into central Geneva to explore this third most affluent city in the world. We managed to get our bearings and an understanding of the layout of the city which is surprisingly compact.

Like all tourists in Geneva, all public transport was free with our Youth Hostel cards. This included the excellent trams, the buses, trains and water taxis. The downside though was that food was expensive. However, we found a fantastic Gourmet Burger restaurant that served excellent food at reasonable prices and all the nourishment we needed for Day 2.

Day Two saw us head north along the shore of Lake Geneva to the History of Science Museum, the Botanical Gardens, the Red Cross Museum and then the United Nations. I don’t think anyone on the trip realised the huge amount of important work that the Red Cross and the Red Crescent actually do around the world. From the signing of the Geneva Convention to important support and work with Prisoners of War, the brand new Red Cross Museum, built with glass into the side of the hillside was an amazing and moving visit.

At the United Nations we received a guided tour of the Palais des Nations, the home of the original League of Nations and the home to European diplomacy. It is from here that the UN organises its disaster and humanitarian relief efforts around the world as the World Health Organisation and UNICEF are also based in Geneva. Dinner that night was at a nice Italian restaurant near to the Youth Hostel where the manager made a special effort to accommodate us all and Mr O’Neill managed to negotiate a discount for us on the dessert menu.

Day Three was a quick start and off by tram to the outskirts of Geneva to CERN. Mr Sharkey had made arrangements with a Physicist who works at CERN to accompany us. Tom showed us round and was on hand to explain almost everything which was really appreciated. After visiting the Museum of Particles exhibition Tom took us for a brilliant (and very healthy) lunch in the refectory. CERN has two refectories which between them cater for 3000 scientists plus all of the visitors. Only in Switzerland could that many people have been offered so much choice and have it served so quickly in immaculate surroundings. In the afternoon we got taken to one of the particle accelorators (called LEIR) and saw within that the bottle of Hydrogen that is the proton source for the collisions they test in the Large Hadron Collider. We then got to see the CERN data centre, a vast building full of servers that manages the vast amount of data generated by CERN. It is also one of the major interchanges on the Wide World Web which was invented at CERN by Sir Tim Berners-Lee. We saw the original and very first World Wide Web Server – a NeXT workstation. There was also an exhibit with a detector that showed us all the particles from space that are bombarding our bodies constantly.

That evening, Mr Sharkey and Mr O’Neill had arranged for a visit to a Fondue Restaurant. Say Cheese everybody. Later we went a walk around central Geneva at night which was amazing to see with all of the advertising boards (mostly for very expensive watches) lit up. On some of the old cobbled streets the original cobbles had been replaced with resin blocks with LEDs inside lighting up the street from beneath. It all added to the brilliant night-time atmosphere in the city.

`Day Four was our final day, but with our flight not until late evening we were able to make a visit to the Natural History Museum first. We caught a water taxi across Lake Geneva and visited a local Saturday morning market before exploring the taxidermy of lots of rare animals and extinct dinosaurs.

After lunch it was time to go shopping. We broke off into teams of four for the afternoon (If you want my advice, get a pen in the pen shop in the square at the top of the hill). This time just flew by as we managed to explore other parts of Geneva that we had not already seen before, such as the Cathedral and the University Area. In one of the most exclusive shopping streets the watches for sale in the windows were competing on price with the Lamborghinis, Ferraris, Porches, Bentleys, and Maybachs parked outside. When the time came to get our flight back, we took a free train to the airport and bussed it back to inverness, arriving just after 2am… It was an excellent and really worthwhile trip.

Graeme Lashley, 6K, Mr Sharkey & Mr O’Neill

 Graeme Lashley, 6K


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