Yesterday morning The Abbey physicists, on time as ever, arrived at school bright and early, excited and ready to fly to Geneva to visit CERN! Our day was off to a prompt start as we drove to Heathrow, boarding our flight soon after and waving goodbye to England. On arrival, our first task was navigating the metro but after various minor conundrums, a couple of mis-directions and a short walk through the bustling evening streets, we made our way safe and sound to Geneva Youth Hostel! Having settled into our rooms and enjoyed a delicious dinner we set off once again on a power march to the Christmas market, led by our chief navigator, Mr Gilbertson.
As physicists are not only smart but renowned for their excellent sporting abilities, we made it swiftly around the beautiful lake and to the huge Ferris wheel which marked the opening of the Christmas market. The Christmas lights and fire pits lit the way as we wandered around the different stalls admiring the various trinkets and sweet treats. Finally, at the sole decision of our navigator, we took a long and somewhat scenic route back through the Genevan night, arriving gratefully back at the hostel and settling into our warm beds.
After a few hours of sleep, a bleary-eyed breakfast and a lot of coffee, the physics team were raring to go, hopping onto a boat to the old town after a short walk through the snow. Toured through the town by our local expert, Mr Hills, we came under sudden ambush from some well targeted snowballs. However, following an icy retaliation, the aggressor was quickly taken down with a snowball to the head.
Next came another opportunity to showcase our peak fitness levels, when having entered the ancient (and very beautiful) cathedral, we made the climb up the many stairs to the top of the cathedral towers. Despite getting lost once or twice, the trek soon became worth it with views at the top of the tower looking far out over the town. After our mini exertion we went off for a sit down and some lunch, intrepidly exploring the many shops and doing a bit of retail therapy.
Next came a boat ride, tram and brisk walk to the Red Cross Museum on the other side of the town, where, through a series of very poignant displays, we learned about the vast number of lives affected by conflict and the vital action being taken by the Red Cross to unite individuals divided by adversity. This was a very humbling experience, prompting us all to take a moment to appreciate our families back at home.
After that we whipped down the road, for a guided tour around some of the UN buildings – of course capturing a picture outside the iconic flags first. On our rounds we were given insights into the varying architectural influences of each of the impressive conference rooms, hearing about the history of the UN and its impact and even getting to listen into a meeting about biological weapons! After concluding a thoroughly enjoyable tour and several mildly heated conversations about current affairs, we hopped back on the tram and headed back to the hostel!
The third and most exciting day had finally arrived! Energy levels were not only high on account of Large Hadron Collider anticipation but also owing to the two birthdays in our midst (a very happy 17th to Sophie and Ira)!
Our morning kicked off with a very interactive talk on data science and the use of binary code from two CERN scientists, pitched at a perfect level to help those not so adept at technology to understand the important uses of data collection and leave those more advanced with some intriguing takeaways – some of the team were even involved in some histogram building. After that it was time for an early lunch, which as ever, posed the joy of attempted communication in French, a task which can only be described as subjectively successful.
Then following some time at the gift shop we were jetted off to the main CERN facilities. Our first stop was the data collection site, where we learnt about and were able to see the huge data storage facilities used for the vast amount of information produced. As we marvelled at the progression of technology over the decades, our guide was keen to answer all of our questions about the power usage and maintenance among many things as well as giving as detailed insight into the goings on at CERN and its purpose as a facility. Next, we split into groups to go and see one of the smaller particle accelerators! Donned with radiation monitors we were able to see the very magnets used to bend the paths of the protons and learnt in detail about the different stages of particle acceleration.
There was masses to take in and the overall sentiment of the day remained that of awe. We then made one final trip back to the CERN exhibition, which related the goal of the institute to replicate the conditions of the big bag through an immersive floor-to-ceiling display – a spectacular end to the day. However the excitement was not over as we headed out to dinner at an Italian restaurant to celebrate the birthday girls.
The tables and the atmosphere was especially lively on account of the match which added to the evening’s enjoyment. The delicious foods and huge portions were topped off by three beautiful birthday cakes and a rowdy rendition of happy birthday, accompanied by some CERN themed presents! Finally we returned back to the hostel, where some haphazard last minute packing was occurring for our departure the next day.
Our departure day dawned to a slow start as we heard our flight had been cancelled! However with the nifty work of Mr Hills we were soon booked on the next flight home. In light of this we had a slow meander around the Science Museum seeing all kinds of historical scientific equipment and their backgrounds.
This was followed by a quick fondue lunch of traditional Swiss origin and a rapid train back to the airport. After the quickest and possibly most scanty security check imaginable, we were through to our gate and after some delays onto the plane back home! All in all, a fabulous trip – thank you especially to Mr Hills, Mrs Robinson and Mr Gilbertson for taking such good care of us all!