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Physics Department Invade Europe


ullivan Upper Physics Department Invade Europe (Well visit CERN!)

On Friday (24 February 2012) morning just before 8am a distinguished group assembled at Belfast International Airport. This group consisted of some of the most brilliant and enthusiastic Physics students from Sullivan Upper School. This inspiring group consisted of 17, A2 Physics students who were accompanied by Mrs S Torrens and Mr P Whittington. Passports and boarding cards given out we managed to negotiate the security section and then relaxed and shopped while waiting for our flight to Geneva.

The purpose of the trip was to visit the world renowned particle accelerator institute of Cern in Geneva. This was our inaugural visit which was largely organized by another member of the Physics Department Mrs C McCarey.

Well the flight was fairly uneventful and just after 1pm local time we arrived in Geneva. There are many things you can say about the Swiss, but we were mightily impressed with the transport system so in no time at all we were walking through the sunny streets of Geneva following directions to the Youth Hostel.

The youth hostel was clean and well run so after checking in we headed for th

e short walk into the old town via the shores of Lake Geneva. Geneva has the reputation of being the playground of the rich and famous and this was clearly evident by the number of expensive cars and plush hotels and expensively looking apartments that were seen on the walk into the town.

The rest of the afternoon was spent exploring the old part of the town, museums, street cafes for coffee and a pastry, cathedrals, more coffee houses, I sure you get the picture.

The group met up again at 7pm and everyone was in high spirits exchanging stories of what they had done with their free time. The walk back to the hostel, once again was by the shore of Lake Geneva, was very pleasurable if a little cooler than in the afternoon.

We sampled the delights of dinner in the youth hostel followed by a couple of hours of card games before we retired for the night.

After breakfast we headed into town to catch the train to CERN, the train was scheduled to leave the platform at 9.42am and at 9.42 that is just what it did. The sun was shining brightly as we arrived at CERN, it had been shining all morning, so we reported to reception and were given just over an hour to visit the Microcosm e

xhibition, which was very interesting and informative. The receptionist was most insistent that we arrived back with her at 11.45am as she wanted us to get to the restaurant before the crowds. Well it is no surprise that thousands of Physicists from around the world come to work at CERN as the restaurant was first class. It is the only restaurant where they weight your food at the till before you pay. Some times the job of a Physics teacher is tough, sitting in the sunshine on the patio of the CERN restaurants eating excellent food is not one of them.

Our official tour started with a lecture by a recently retired researcher who gave use a very good talk on the background to the establishing of CERN, the work they are currently engaged in, and what the future may hold. We then did the short walk to the Atlas (one of the four detector sites on the large Hadron collider) control room. The detection system was explained in detail. The next part of the tour took us across the border into France where the complexity of build the LHC was explained and why one small leak in the coolant system took 13 months to fix and cost 30 million euros.

We left Cern with our heads buzzing with facts and figures and certainly impressed by the work that goes on there. We boarded the tram back to the main station and then by train to the airport. Where once again we successfully negotiated the security and then had time for more relaxing and shopping and another cup of coffee.

It was a very enjoyable trip and I am very pleased and proud of the 17 pupils who were excellently behaved and very good company. Roll on next year.

P Whittington

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