May 29, 2024

Accelerating Science And Innovation

By Dirgh Shah




In standard eight, I was first introduced to the phenomenal and intriguing world of particle physics, it has always been my dream to visit CERN (European Organisation for Nuclear Research) where scientists from all across the globe, probe into the fundamental structure of our universe.

Founded in 1945, CERN, one of Europe’s first join ventures, sits on either side of the Franco-Swiss border near Geneva, currently having 22 member states (India is associate member). CERN has 2500 staff, 1800 other paid personnel and 13000 scientific users. At CERN particles are collided at 99.9% the speed of light, by using world’s largest, most modern and complex scientific instruments, to study the basic constituents of matter – the fundamental particles. The research that takes place there gives physicists indications to how particles interact and insights into the fundamental laws of nature.

As per 2017 the budget of CERN was 1.1 billion francs.(76,52,97,61,878.24 rupees) — I think the budget is quiet low and CERN should definitely get a larger budget to focus on the spectacular research they do,  as even movies like Avengers: Infinity War earned 2 billion dollars worldwide.

In Tahiti 1897, Paul Gauguin, a French artist, asked the three of the most important questions which CERN is now trying to answer. Gauguin inscribed the original French title in the upper left corner:

The inscription was –

D’où Venons Nous / Que Sommes Nous / Où Allons Nous
Where Do We Come From?  What Are We? Where Are We Going?


The Mission Of CERN

1) Work for HUMANITY and the greater good.

2) Push forward the frontiers of knowledge.

In the 1970, the touch screen was invented at CERN

In 1989, Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web in a CERNs corridor.

Invention and developments of new technology for accelerators and detectors takes place at CERN

3) Train the scientists and engineers of tomorrow.

4) Unite people of different cultures from all around the world.

That’s what I love about CERN – yes they are finding answers to the most important questions about the universe but CERN, is a community in itself, extremely  peaceful, no restriction , where anyone can come and work, it’s a safe place. A place without discrimination, a place where everyone is treated as equals and the research is for the public and not for government use, and CERN doesn’t take part in any research related to weapons, which then again reinstates its agenda that it works for the greater good of humanity and is not a an institute which supports mayhem and bloodshed.

CERN is home to 5 main accelerators (super microscopes): The Antiproton decelerator, The Large Hadron Collider, The Proton Synchrotron, The Super Proton Synchrotron and LINAC and 4 main experiments at the LHC, which is the biggest accelerator built by man – 27km in circumference and 100m underground: ATLAS (A Toroidal LHC Apparatus), CMS (Compact Muon Solenoid), LHCb (LHC Beauty) and ALICE (A Large Ion Collider Experiment).

Day 1  (18 / 06 / 2018)

“This is the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Switzerland, the product of decades of planning and construction. It is a Mecca for physicists around the world over. “- Dr. Sheldon Cooper

My excitement knew no bounds, I woke up an hour before the alarm, I was wide awake, rushing to get ready waiting for the time for breakfast. The previous day, I was pleased to meet Mr. Ivneet and Ms. Prachi, our tour operators. At 8 am sharp we headed out to CERN via the public transport. At CERN we met Dr. Mick Storr, from the LifeLab foundation, previously an experimental particle physicist and software developer.


He took us to building 40, room B, named after Neils Bohr, where he introduced us to CERN in an intriguing and fun way. We covered everything from the history of CERN to the recent developments here. He is a charming and a fun orator. I loved his way of using hangman and jokes to make us understand the concept better. As a joke, he started off with, “THE WHOLE UNIVERSE WAS IN A HOT DENSE STATE……”, which I then continued and sang the whole Big Bang Theory theme song, thus acquiring the name “Mr. Big Bang Theory”.

After giving us a few questions to ponder over in a very interactive introduction, Dr. Mick took us to look at the Synchrocyclotron (SC), the first accelerator at CERN. It was humungous and I was   awestruck. We learnt about how accelerators in general work, and how does the SC work by a very innovative and amazing video display. It was informative. Dr. Mick was amazing.
We also visited and saw the hallway where the World Wide Web (WWW) was born. It was a  spectacular and magical place to be in, truly!




After that we went to the huge CERN cafeteria, a place where  all cultures meet, greet and eat.  I was frankly hungry and delighted to see the enormous cafeteria.

In the CERN cafeteria, I had the honour to meet Dr. Maria and Dr. Giuseppe Fideraco, who pioneered research in mesons, in particular, the pion. I also had the opportunity to take their autographs. The amount of scientists I had met at day one overwhelmed me.



After lunch we visited to CERN’s Globe of Science and Innovation to see the Universe Of Particles exhibit. It was pretty breath-taking; the design of the exhibit was extremely futuristic. Mick had planned a quiz on Globe Hunt for us. It was a research paper in which we had to find the data to the questions asked in the paper from the exhibit. Also, in the exhibit there was an incredible   video which informed us about the start of the universe.
After the globe hunt, we met Dr. Mick again and discussed our answers to the globe hunt and talked more about CERN and its particle accelerators.






Day 2  (19 / 06 / 2018)

Day 2 started with an interesting lecture given by Dr. Albert De Roeck, a professor at Antwerp University, Belgium and a staff member at CERN. We learnt about the fundamental forces, the     standard model and super symmetry. He explained all the topics in detail ensuring he used simple terms so everybody could understand. I loved his lecture, it was fabulous. And I’m so grateful for getting an opportunity to meet him. He also told us about “New Physics”, which the future generation can study and research upon as we need more and new theories to understand the world we live in. An example for “New Physics” is – the little Higgs, new gauge bosons.

After an incredible lecture, Dr. Archana Sharma (also a member of LifeLab foundation) gave us a talk about India and its relevance at CERN and about wire chambers. She also told about how to apply to CERN for internship and what happens here. It was a very interesting lecture. Afterwards we went to the cafeteria to answer the 4th most important question, by Woody Allen – What’s there to eat? (as told by Dr. Mick Storr, who is not only incredibly smart but also very funny and awesome with students.)

After a delicious lunch, we left to see the anti-matter factory. On our way to the anti-matter factory, we stopped at a milestone labelled F and S on opposite sides. Mr. Ivneet and Mrs. Prachi told us this was a tombstone of a famous scientist. As soon as they told us that, out of respect we moved away – as to not stamp on the buried geniuses .we commenced a fun game of guessing the names of the brilliant scientists who had been honoured with a spot at CERN. After countless wrong tries, Mr. Ivneet and Mrs. Prachi started laughing at us and told us it was a milestone marking the border of France and Switzerland, and we were baffled because we had just crossed a country without any official documents and it was marvellous but also equally funny because we had been tricked by them. We were so dumb We had crossed Switzerland and entered France, by foot. I could not  believe it.
S for Switzerland and F for France.

We reached the anti-matter factory also called the AD (anti-matter decelerator), still in France and I was still in awe of this humungous institute. Outside the factory, Dr. Mick told us about anti-matters and how it is made, collected and stored. The process is very dangerous as anti-matter is rare and deadly, as annihilation is inevitable if anti-matter comes in contact with matter and guess what matter is EVERYWHERE! The threat was real and so the thrill to see and observe was even more alluring.  The anti-matter factory was one of the places I always wanted to be. It was my dream to see this. It had been featured in many books and movies like Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons. Maybe it was a bad day because the rule at CERN was that people below 16 cannot enter the anti-matter factory. I was heartbroken, what difference did one year make! I wasn’t allowed to see the thing which I most wanted to, it was frustrating and infuriating. We, people  below 16, had to wait out while others went to see the anti-matter factory. During that time we met a professor, who spoke to us about anti-matter in detail.

After the tour of the anti-matter factory was done, Dr. Mick told us that he had a surprise planned for us, one which the above 16 will not attend. He took us to the tech section of CERN (where all the information is stored and data is processed), where he told us about Wim Klein – the first computer at CERN. Wim Klein was able to solve complex equations in the most powerful machine, his brain. Then we went to see how storage and comp over the years have improved. We even saw the first MAC!!!!!! Did you know that CERN stores its data not in HDDs or SDDs but in tapes, not those magnetic ones. Tapes are more robust but are sequential access. Then we saw CERNs mainframe – where all the data is collected. I, being a tech-savvy person, was in a complete awe. It was amazing (I don’t believe it was better than the anti-matter factory but it was a rule so it’s fine. I’ll visit the factory when I grow up and work at CERN or next year with LIFE LAB).

Then when we left, we noticed that CERN had kept a cage for mice there, old used computer mice , CERN has a very good sense of humour. And this was the end of day 2. I was impatient for what the next day had in store for me.

(Day 3 and 4 in part 2)



Lectures and talks in CERN (for worldwide earnings Avengers Infinity War)

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