Back to CERN - to see ALICE...

Dated: 9 November 2022

This term, Woodhouse physics students were at last able to make a welcome return to international trips - by visiting CERN in Geneva.
Head of physics David Makepeace told us "Early on a Thursday morning before half-term, 48 Woodhouse students and staff gathered outside the college to board a coach to Gatwick Airport, their ultimate destination being Geneva and the world’s largest experiment – The Large Hadron Collider.
This was a return to what was for Woodhouse a regular destination, upgraded during the Covid pandemic, and now colliding beams of protons at almost twice the energy of before, in the search for the hypothetical particles that make up dark matter.
We arrived at CERN on the Friday and, after watching a video on the history of the accelerator, were split into two groups that crossed the border into France to alternately visit two sites. One was the Control centre which oversees the process of accelerating the protons, from a bottle of Hydrogen gas through a series of stages to a beam travelling at 99.9999991% the speed of light!
The other site was ALICE – A Large Ion Collider Experiment. Here we learnt how lead ions are collided to create a quark-gluon plasma similar to our universe’s state a nano second (0.000 000 001 seconds) after the Big Bang.
All the experiments at CERN advance our knowledge of our universe but we also learnt of the technology that has spun-off from these advances such as touch screens and of course the world-wide-web.
Arriving back at CERN’s reception we then joined the physicists and engineers who work there in the canteen – pizza being the most popular choice on the menu!
As well as the chance to see cutting edge physics the trip is an opportunity to explore Geneva and as always, our students took full advantage of the free travel available visiting a number of landmarks such as the fountain on Lake Geneva and the confluence of the Rhone and the Arve rivers.
Despite the inclement weather and a delayed flight home we arrived back at college early Saturday morning tired but having made the most of our two days."
Head of faculty and head of mathematics, John Brennan-Rhodes (who accompanied the physics department on the trip) said "It was an excellent experience. CERN was fascinating and inspiring. Great international cooperation. I have so many good things to say about the Woodhouse students. They were engaged, respectful, asked good questions, were reliable and patient about the inevitable EasyJet delay. They were also good fun to be around."

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