Mark’s eye opening visit to CERN

Honiton’s Mark Hayes sees the cutting edge work by scientists in Geneva.

It was an eye-opening experience when a Honiton resident was taken on a trip of a lifetime to the infamous CERN headquarters.

Mark Hayes was given the opportunity to visit CERN’s (The European Organisation for Nuclear Research) base in Geneva earlier this month, courtesy of New Scientist Magazine and Oxford University Press after winning a competition.

As part of the special visit he was able to meet the head of communications at CERN, James Gillies, and was treated to a VIP tour of the site, which involved crossing the Swiss and French border due the sheer scale of the site.

The 20-year-old was even able to take a close look at the room where the idea for the World Wide Web was thought up, penned and tested and see how CERN’s computer archives were run by humans and robots.

He said: “One of the exciting points of the day was seeing the LHC control room and the live data coming in.

“The LHC is being used for many different experiments.

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“The LHC itself is used to create high speed collisions of particles.

“It works by accelerating two beams of particles in opposite directions to more than 99.9 per cent of the speed of light, then smashing the two beams together to, hopefully, every now and then, produce a Higgs Boson to show the nature of primordial plasma, which filled the universe when it was a fraction of a second old, and even give us a greater insight into the nature of dark matter and produce something new and unexpected.”

Mark was also given the opportunity to spend time with CERN’s scientists working on antimatter where he learnt how to trap and study antimatter, which is done using a Penning Trap.

This, Mark discovered, has to be done in a very efficient vacuum to avoid collisions with matter particles because, if antimatter and matter particles were to collide, they would be destroyed instantly.

He added: “Looking back on it now, I am completely in awe of what they are doing.

“Just the sheer scale of the whole operation at CERN is unbelievable and the fact that it’s just there purely for the advancement of knowledge. Its purpose is to answer all the questions we ask when we are young about how we and the universe came into being.

“Of course, there are all sorts of other practical benefits, such as the new cancer treatments, its pioneering and new digital imagining technology and ways to advance the production of clean energy.”