After a rather eventful evening involving an abandoned gas canister and a stroll through a rather sultry part of the city, my friends and I took a leisurely stroll down to the lakefront just as the sun rose over the city of Geneva. It’s safe to say it was rather stunning, definitely worth the early start.
Following a peaceful half hour by the lake, we made our way over to the old quarter of Geneva. There, we spent some time looking around St Peter’s Cathedral, a modestly decorated building with a mix-match of materials used to construct it, making for an interesting roof.
After a bit of free time involving a large Playmobil Ghostbuster and a lot of stairs, we made our way by tram to main site of the day: CERN! We started our visit with a look through the Microcosm, a permanent exhibition detailing the operation of the Large Hadron Collider through a number of interactive talks and activities. One of the highlights had to be the virtual tour of the 27 km particle accelerator which provided both great detail on the nature of the detectors housed at the 4 big sites and a reflection on the immense size of the LHC. We then went over to the Cafeteria for a spot of lunch, a slightly intimidating prospect considering the intelligence of the experts also enjoying a bite to eat.
After lunch, we had the honour of attending a lecture in the same room where they announced the discovery of the infamous Higgs Boson was announced. Our lecturer, the wonderful Dr Alexandre Zabi, gave us an insightful talk on what exactly it is that the experts hired by CERN do. He then took us on a tour of just a few of the sites housed in the area. We began our tour with a trip to the cryogenic facilities where they carry out their work on the all important magnets they use in the LHC. I won’t deny it, the stuff discussed went over my head a little bit but it was fantastic to get just a glimpse of the incredible technology they use to accelerate particles to speeds close to that of light.
We then paid a visit to the AMS facility where I discovered that CERN’s work extends beyond our atmosphere. Housed on the ISS, the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer detects neutrinos travelling through space, collecting data that is sent back to a team of experts in Switzerland. Learning just how challenging it was to get something as delicate as the AMS up into space was awesome, better still enlightening me to the depth of the work done at CERN.
After finishing our visit with a quick look at the outside of the Globe, we made our way back into town where we enjoyed some dinner at the Hotel Edelweiss, a restaurant which boasts wonderful character. We were given the opportunity to enjoy some Fondue cheese and some delightful live music from an oompah band which rounded off a fantastic day wonderfully.