At CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, physicists and engineers are studying the basic constituents of matter: The fundamental particles.
Just a waste of time? Definitely not!
If you are as interested in physics as I am, I strongly recommend to visit this place. For a lot of people this kind of research seems senseless and total waste of money. But in my opinion, understanding what we are, how it all holds together and why the universe works as it does, is one of the biggest questions of mankind. It’s no accident that I named my beloved dog “Higgs”. 😉
At CERN you may see the world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider. It consists of a 27 kilometer long subterranean ring of superconducting magnets, built on Swiss and French territory.
I will not try to explain what they do at CERN, since some of the things I heard there are way above my intellectual level. Just visit it yourself! 22 countries and their tax payers fund the CERN, so visits and tours are completely free of charge. I don’t know any other place on earth, where you get as much knowledge and information for free!
Be quick when booking a guided tour at CERN
I recommend to book a guided tour online directly at the CERN Website, though you have to be very fast in order to get a place. The reservation system is based on first in first served, and CERN is facing three times more tour requests than it can accommodate. Therefore the free slots vanish in minutes.
Keep in mind, that the Large Hadron Collider is operational most of the time. For this reason you very likely won’t be allowed to enter the detectors or the tunnel system. Instead you will be able to watch the people working in the control rooms of the ATLAS, ALICE, CMS, or the LHCb detector. Their look and layout will immediately remind you of NASA’s mission control center.
CERN scientists lead the guided tours for you
One of the things I really like is that the people who are actually working at the CERN conduct the guided tours. Real scientists are taking turns leading the tours and explaining ordinary people what they are actually doing. They try to keep the information as understandable as possible. But they are sometimes carried away, especially when you show your interest and ask them profound questions. It’s so great when you can talk to somebody who lives for science, looking into his sparkling eyes and hearing the enthusiasm in his voice!
But even if you can’t do anything with physics, you will be amazed by the huge size of the machines which are needed to get a glimpse on the short-lived particles. The enormous efforts to build and operate this research facility will be obvious to every visitor, even for laypersons.
Birthplace of the World Wide Web
The CERN is also the place, where the World Wide Web was born. Information sharing was quite difficult in 1989, not only because of the long distances between the buildings on the area. But information sharing around the world was tedious too. That’s why Tim Berners-Lee, a British scientist working at CERN, invented the first computer network and called it the WWW.
For me the CERN is a modern wonder of the world! I am proud that over 20 countries recognize the importance of such an enormous research plant in Europe. I am deeply convinced that the obtained scientific findings will someday get very important for the future of our civilization.