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Archive for November, 2012

Studies of New Physics require several independent approaches. In the language of experimental physics it means several different experiments. Better yet, several accelerators that have detectors that study similar things, but produce results with different systematic and statistical uncertainties. For a number of years that was how things were: physicists searched for New Physics in high-energy experiments where new particles could be produced directly (think Tevatron or LHC experiments), or low-energy, extremely clean measurements that explored quantum effects of heavy new physics particles. In other words, New Physics could also be searched for indirectly.

As a prominent example of the later approach, detectors BaBar at SLAC (USA) and Belle at KEK (Japan) studied decays of copiously produced B-mesons in hopes to find glimpses of New Physics in quantum loops. These experiments measured many Standard Model-related parameters (in particular, confirming the mechanism of CP-violation in the Standard Model) and discovered many unexpected effects (like new mesons containing charmed quarks, as well as oscillations of charm mesons). But they did not see any effects that could not be explained by the Standard Model. A way to go in this case was to significantly increase luminosity of the machine, thereby allowing for very rare processes to be observed. Two super-flavor factories (those machines are really like factories, churning out millions of B-mesons) were proposed, the Belle-II experiment at KEK and a new Super-B factory at the newly-created Cabibbo Lab in Frascatti, Italy. I have already written about the Cabibbo Lab.

It appears, however, that Italian government decided today that it cannot fund the Super-B flavor factory. Tommaso Dorigo reported it in his blog this morning. Here is more hard data: there is a press release (in Italian) from the INFN that basically tells you that “economic conditions… were incompatible with the costs of the project evaluated.” Which is another way of saying that Italian government is not going to fund it. This follows by the news from the PhysicsWorld saying the same thing.

Many physicists have been expressing doubts that the original Super-B plan, which was, in my opinion, very bold, could be executed within the proposed time frame.  Yet, physicists pressed on… that is until this morning’s announcement. Reality of our world sets in — there is not enough money for basic research…
So what’s left? There is still, of course, Belle-II. Moreover, excellent performance of LHCb experiment at CERN (I wrote about that here) leaves us with great hopes. That is, if Nature cooperates…


Internship at CERN as seen from both sides

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

Gautier Crépin-Leblond, a 13-and-a-half year old high school student who came to CERN as an intern to fulfil his school internship requirement. He is studying in a French high school, Sainte-Ursule de Riedisheim. He has three days to discover what is happening at CERN. As I had the chance to supervise him for part of the afternoon, we thought of writing a blog together. His interest and determination were striking, so we took him on-board, even though CERN cannot unfortunately accommodate all requests for internships given the sheer number of applications.

What do these internships bring us, both as intern and supervisor? Gautier says, “Lots of information, both for my future career and at a scientific level”. As for myself, this internship provided the opportunity to rediscover CERN through fresh eyes and meet a highly motivated young person interested in scientific matters.

Gautier wants to be an astrophysicist and work at CERN as a theorist. Yesterday, he joined a tour organized for a Swiss writer looking for inspiration. He went first to the ATLAS control room (no problem with a visit conducted in German since he is Alsacian) then visited the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) control room. “I was surprised to see so few women there, only two for about 15 men. In school, they told us women were more qualified than men”, said Gautier. Nice to see that even young boys do notice nowadays but in fact, one usually sees more women there.

Next stop: the AD hall (Antiproton Decelerator) where several experimental teams are currently trying to produce antimatter. Gautier told me his impressions, “Rather rustic, like hay-wire setups, with aluminium foil everywhere and kilometres of wires. Very different from all the other places I visited”. Then he passed by the large hall where magnets are being tested. “Very impressive but also very noisy”, he said.

This morning, he visited the Globe of Science and Innovation, where a public exhibition is held on the world of particles. “Very nice, no long panels to read but instead they had interactive displays”.

In the afternoon, we talked about dark matter and how to detect Higgs bosons if they were to decay into a pair of particles invisible to our detectors.

Gautier got hooked to astrophysics ever since he received a book on astronomy when he was in kindergarten.  One thing leading to the next, we talked about the moon and the incredible stock of helium 3 it contains. A quick search on Wikipedia revealed that a ton of helium 3 would suffice to produce the annual Earth’s needs in energy through nuclear fusion, a process void of nuclear wastes. He was stunned to hear that my colleague, Marcelle Rey-Campagnolle had manipulated and analysed a few grams of lunar stones in Orsay brought back by the Apollo mission (me too!)

In short, we both learned new things, about each other and the moon while staying grounded, although Gautier was slightly floating, his eyes and head full of all he had seen so far.

Education is one of the missions of CERN, which is why young people of all ages come here to learn about the research being conducted in the laboratory and the various techniques used. CERN welcomes about 300 young people like Gautier every year coming from high schools for discovery internships. During the summer, more than 250 university-level students participate in the Summer Student Programme for two to three months where they attend lectures in the morning and contribute to the research programme in the afternoon.

Throughout the year, CERN also opens its doors to some 170 technical and doctoral students. This comes on top of the 3000 doctoral students working on the various LHC experiments and sent here by their home universities from 69 different countries. High school teachers also benefit from a special training program. Of course, one can come and work at CERN.

For those just curious to visit CERN, guided visits are organised for groups and individuals. In 2013, CERN will also host an Open Day during the weekend of September 28-29 where the public will be able to visit the whole site. Interested? Then mark your calendar!

Gautier Crépin-Leblond and Pauline Gagnon.

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Stage au CERN vu des deux côtés

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

Gautier Crépin-Leblond, 13 ans et demi, est un collégien qui a pu venir au CERN dans le cadre des stages d’observation de son établissement scolaire. Il est en troisième au collège Sainte-Ursule de Riedisheim. Il a trois jours pour découvrir ce qui se passe au CERN. Comme j’ai eu la chance de le superviser pour une partie de l’après-midi, on a pensé écrire un blog ensemble. Son intérêt et sa détermination étaient frappant, alors on l’a pris, même si le CERN ne peut malheureusement pas répondre positivement à toutes les demandes de stages tant elles sont nombreuses.

Qu’est-ce que ces stages nous apportent réciproquement ? Gautier : « Beaucoup de connaissances au niveau orientation et scientifique. » Et moi ? La chance de redécouvrir le CERN à travers un regard nouveau et rencontrer un jeune super motivé et intéressé par les questions scientifiques.

Gautier veut devenir astrophysicien et travailler au CERN comme théoricien. Hier, il s’est joint à une visite organisée pour un écrivain suisse en quête d’inspiration. Il s’est donc promené un peu partout, d’abord à la salle de contrôle d’ATLAS (pas de problèmes avec une visite faite en allemand puisqu’il est Alsacien), puis il a visité celle du Grand Collisionneur de Hadrons (LHC). « J’ai été surpris qu’il y ait si peu de femmes, que deux pour une quinzaine d’hommes alors qu’à l’école on m’avait dit que les femmes étaient plus qualifiées que les hommes ». C’est rassurant de voir que cela dérange même les jeunes garçons mais il faut dire que Gautier est tombé sur une mauvaise journée car on trouve en général bien plus de femmes dans cette salle de contrôle.

Prochaine étape : le hall AD (le décélérateur d’antiprotons), là où plusieurs groupes expérimentaux essaient de créer de l’antimatière. « Plutôt rustique, genre bricolage, avec du papier d’aluminium partout et des kilomètres de fils.

Bien différent des autres endroits que j’ai visités. » Puis, le grand hall où l’on teste les aimants. « Impressionnant comme installations mais bruyant. »

Ce matin, visite du Globe de la Science et de l’Innovation, là où se tient une exposition sur le monde des particules. «  Bien sympa, pas de grands panneaux à lire mais plutôt des bornes interactives. »

Dans l’après-midi, on a discuté de matière noire et comment détecter des bosons de Higgs si ceux-ci se désintégraient en matière noire ou tout autre particule invisible dans nos détecteurs.

Gautier rêve d’astrophysique depuis qu’il a reçu un livre sur l’astronomie en maternelle. De fil en aiguille, on a parlé de la lune qui recèle des quantités énormes d’hélium 3 qui pourraient servir à la fusion nucléaire selon Wikipédia, une formidable source d’énergie propre, sans déchets radioactifs. Il fut estomaqué d’apprendre que ma collègue, Marcelle Rey-Campagnolle, avait manipulé quelques grammes de pierre lunaire à Orsay ramenée par la mission Apollo (moi aussi, je l’avoue !)

Bref, nous avons tous les deux appris pleins de nouvelles choses l’un sur l’autre et sur la lune, tout en restant sur terre, quoique Gautier planait un peu, les yeux et la tête pleins de tout ce qu’il avait vu au CERN.

L’éducation est l’une des grandes missions du CERN, c’est pourquoi des jeunes de tous âges viennent s’initier aux recherches menées dans le Laboratoire et aux techniques utilisées. Le CERN accueille ainsi environ 300 jeunes comme Gautier chaque année, issus de l’enseignement secondaire, pour des stages de découverte. L’été, ce sont plus de 250 étudiant-e-s de niveau universitaire qui participent au programme des étudiants d’été de deux à trois mois au cours duquel ils suivent des cours et participent aux programmes scientifiques. Tout au long de l’année, le CERN accueille encore quelque 170 étudiant-e-s techniques et 160 doctorant-e-s. C’est sans mentionner les quelques 3000 étudiant-e-s au doctorat travaillant sur les expériences du LHC et rattachés à des centaines d’universités de 69 pays différents. Les professeurs de physique de l’enseignement secondaire peuvent aussi bénéficier d’un programme de formation. Et bien sûr, pourquoi ne pas venir travailler au CERN ?

Et pour ceux et celles qui veulent juste venir voir le CERN, des visites guidées sont organisées. En 2013, il y aura même des Journées Portes Ouvertes qui se dérouleront le weekend du 28-29 septembre 2013. Alors pensez à réserver cette date.

Gautier Crépin-Leblond et Pauline Gagnon.

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Higgs update, HCP 2012

Thursday, November 22nd, 2012

Last week, Seth and I met up to discuss the latest results from the Hadron Collider Physics (HCP) Symposium and what they mean for the Higgs searches. We have moved past discovery and now we are starting to perform precision measurements. Is this the Standard Model Higgs boson, or some other Higgs boson? Should we look forward to a whole new set of discoveries around the corner, or is the Higgs boson the final word for new physics that the LHC has to offer? We’ll find out more in the coming months!


Oil, Water, and Mixing

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

by N.S. Lockyer, Director

Oil and water.

These few words usually denote a problem. Joe and Bill get along like “oil and water.” We all know what that means: they don’t get along. Expect some fireworks. But the world may be changing because of oil and water, and the word to summarize it is “hydraulic fracturing” or just “fracking.” Oil is pouring out of the U.S. in places like North Dakota, New York, Ohio, New Mexico, and Pennsylvania, all due to the new technique of hydraulic fracturing being employed all over the U.S. (and Canada). The International Energy Agency has predicted that the U.S. could be the largest producer of oil in the world by 2017 and may be a net exporter of oil by 2035. Look out climate change!  Although fracking has been around for decades, only in the last few years has it advanced dramatically.

The U.S. consumes about 19 million barrels of oil a day, it produces about 8 million barrels and imports the rest. This voracious thirst for oil drives the U.S. oil imports and the newly forming gas fracking industry. The numbers for fracking are mind-boggling. Huge pumps and massive diesel engines must drive mixtures of water and tonnes of sand (which prevents the fracture from closing up after the process is over), two or more kilometres below the surface.  But once done, the oil leaps from the fractured rock and flows easily to the surface. There are tens of “fracks” per well and each frack lasts anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. The fracking fluid is mostly water but with certain acidic compounds added sometimes to help etch the rock. Interestingly, radioactive isotopes (gamma emitters like colbalt-60) are used to determine properties of the fractures. North Dakota is now producing 750,000 barrels of high quality oil a day up over 50% from last year, moving it past Alaska as the second highest-producing state (Texas is number one). A single well can produce several thousand barrels in a day. A few years ago, only one frack per well was standard.  In North Dakota, the number of wells planned is in the tens of thousands. The land area is massive and extends into Manitoba and Saskatchewan in Canada. Companies think they are still only extracting a few percent of the available oil and research is advanced to evaluate more exotic liquids to get at the rest.

Canada’s national newspaper, the Globe and Mail reported recently (Nov 17th by N. Vanderklippe) that all this drilling in the U.S. will lead to problems for Canada’s oil sands. Canada exports about three million barrels of oil per day, mostly to the U.S., or 27% of all imported oil to the U.S. Canada is the largest exporter of oil to the U.S.  So much oil is now pumping through existing pipelines (they are full) between Canada and the U.S. that oil is being transported by truck and rail now! The heavy oil from Alberta is always in the press for the relatively higher energy intensity needed for extracting a useful final product.  However the reserves are massive (second largest in the world) and it seems hard to believe the U.S. will ignore the opportunity to import oil from its friendly northern neighbour. It will be interesting to see if President Obama approves the 800,000 barrel a day Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta to Texas in the near future. The Government of Canada and Alberta wish to forge ahead with plans for oil-sands extraction and building new pipelines. The Canadian public is somewhat less excited about the prospects due to concerns about the environment. Trade-offs!

All in all, there will be a lot of talk about oil independence in the U.S., cheap gas prices, and competitive exports; Canadian oil producers will be increasingly nervous about prices and business. Uncle Sam will be happy as prices are expected to drop. A top concern is the environment.  Should we just leave the oil in the ground because oil and water don’t mix? The alternatives are to develop renewables, conserve energy, and save the water for drinking.

One way or the other, these issues and discussions will affect all of us.


Particles of the Day

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012
My copy of the 2012 PDG booklet

My copy of the 2012 PDG booklet

Last week, I got my copy of the 2012 Particle Data Group Review of Particle Physics booklet — which, along with its heavy, 1000-page full-length counterpart, we simply call “the PDG.” My very first copy, during my first months at CERN in the summer of 2003, is a vivid memory for me. Here was a book with almost everything you want to know, about every particle ever discovered! It was like the book of dinosaurs I had when I was a kid, and I read it in exactly the same way: flipping to a random page and reading a few facts about, say, the charged kaon.

My new copy of the PDG has inspired me to adapt this fun for non-experts. So each day, I’ll feature a new particle on Twitter; I’m @sethzenz, and the hashtag will be #ParticleOfTheDay. Since starting last week, I’ve featured the B0s meson, the pion, the kaon, the electron, and the Higgs.

How long can I keep this up? That is, how many particles are there? Well, that depends on how you count. The Standard Model has 3 charged leptons, 3 neutrinos, 6 quarks, the photon, and the W, Z, and Higgs bosons. But then there’s all the antiparticles. Dark matter candidates. The graviton. I could even argue for taking 8 days covering all the gluon colors! (Don’t worry, I won’t.) But most of all, there’s all the composite particles — those that are made from a combination of quarks. There are a very large number of those, and there will always be more to find too, because you can always add more energy to the same combination of quarks.

The point isn’t to be systematic. I might go back and be more specific. I might repeat. What I really want to do is find a particle each day that’s in the news or I can say something interesting about.

Flipping at random through a book of particles turns out not to be the best way to learn particle physics; ultimately, I needed to learn the principles by which those particles are organized. But it is an interesting way to tell the story of particle physics: its history and how it’s done today. After all, the particles do come out of accelerators in a random jumble; it’s our job to organize them.

Have an idea for the Particle of the Day, and what to say about it? Let me know!


by N.S. Lockyer, edited by T.I. Meyer

On November 10th, 2012, the Director of TRIUMF, Nigel S. Lockyer gave a convocation address at the National Institute of Technology (NIT) in Durgapur India as the Guest of Honour. NIT is a national technical university that attracts students from all over India and from abroad. There is one such institute in each state in India, about 30 in total. The Durgapur NIT was named in 2003 as the NIT representing the state of West Bengal. Before this, it was the Regional Engineering College, one of eight such RECs created in India in 1954. The capital of West Bengal is Kolkata and the state is home to 91 million people, three quarters of whom live in rural areas. Durgapur, started by the first Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, is the second planned city in India and is highly industrialized, known for producing steel. It has been nicknamed the Ruhr of India.

The convocation activities started with a police escort through town from a local hotel where the VIPs gathered for lunch. The VIPs included the Mayor of Durgapur, Shri Apurba Mukherjee. The VIPs and faculty marched into the auditorium which was beautifully decorated with flowers. A choir sang songs before the ceremony, and an official candle-lighting ritual started the event.

Professor Bikash Sinha, former Director of VECC and the Saha Institute for Nuclear Physics in Kolkata, is Chairman of the Board of Governors, NIT Durgapur. He introduced Nigel and the other guests of honour. Nigel’s address delivered a message encouraging students to develop a curiosity that would serve them well for their entire life. His remarks centered on the origin of water on our planet, a topic that he is curious about himself. This allowed the introduction of isotopes, their origins, and nuclear astrophysics as a topic of research of common interest to both TRIUMF and VECC in Kolkata. The origin of water is speculated to come from comets, meteorites, and early in the formation of the earth itself. He ended his speech by encouraging the students to thank their parents, thank their teachers, but most of all thank themselves by celebrating their graduation just like we do in Canada….by enjoying a beer, and in India that means a Kingfisher.

Other guests of honour included Dr. Rudiger Voss, Head of International Relations at CERN who spoke of global scientific collaboration and India’s role at CERN and the Large Hadron Collider. Dr. Voss showed slides of CERN and reminded the students that they should consider careers in research. Professor Sushanta Dattagupta, Vice Chancellor, Visva Bharati, Santiniketan was introduced as the Chief Guest, and gave a speech about Indian scientists such as Bose, Bhabha, as well as the great Bengali poet laureate Rabindranath Tagore and his interactions with Einstein amongst others.

The convocation formal ceremony adjourned with felicitations to the guests. Dr. Bikash Sinha presented the Guests of Honour with wool shawls and engraved plates. The TRIUMF contingent of Lia Merminga and Tim Meyer, in Kolkata for the SCRIBE conference traveled with Nigel to Durgapur for the occasion. Dr. Sinha dutifully acknowledged the TRIUMF guests in the audience and called both Lia Merminga and Tim Meyer onto the stage and presented them with gifts to acknowledge their presence before the audience of several hundred students and families.

It could be argued the most exciting aspect of the trip was the return drive along National Highway 34 which runs from Kolkata and allows connections to Delhi and onto to Mumbai. A major thoroughfare for truckers (India being infamous for its plentiful and colourful trucks), it was well known that in returning to the airport that evening for a late flight back to Canada the TRIUMF team could/would encounter a major traffic jam that could last for hours or days. The potential truck jam was discussed at lunch and before and after the ceremony. Serious faces considered the possibilities and instructions to the drivers were delivered in Hindi. Fortunately the Indian drivers, well trained in combative high speed driving, steered fearlessly into the chaotic oncoming traffic by driving down the divided highway in the wrong direction. As all Indians know, that is just a day on the road in India.

Beep beep! Hail to the graduates of NIT Durgapur.


Le BEAUJOLAIS NOUVEAU est arrivé ! Le moment ne saurait être mieux choisi pour partager cette anecdote…

Au Centre d’études nucléaires de Bordeaux Gradignan (CENBG), les chercheurs tentent de comprendre ce qui nous constitue et nous entoure : le noyau atomique, l’Univers… Pourtant, ils interviennent aussi en tant qu’experts pour authentifier des grands vins ! Comment ce glissement de la recherche fondamentale à une application aussi concrète s’est-il produit ? Philippe Hubert, chercheur au CENBG, nous raconte…

« C’était en 2000, nous étions spécialisés dans la mesure de très faibles niveaux de radioactivité pour la recherche fondamentale. Le service de la répression des fraudes de Bordeaux possédait un détecteur semblable aux nôtres. Je m’y étais donc rendu afin d’en découvrir l’utilisation. Au cours de la conversation avec le directeur, nous nous demandions alors si des mesures de radioactivité dans un vin ne permettraient pas de le dater et de l’authentifier. Ainsi, j’entrepris d’effectuer des mesures pour connaître dans un premier temps quel type de radioactivité pouvait exister dans le vin. Nous ne savions pas du tout ce que nous y trouverions… Après trois mesures sur des millésimes différents, nous constatâmes qu’un noyau radioactif apparaissait et que sa teneur variait en fonction de l’année : le césium 137. Issu des essais nucléaires effectués dans les années 50-70 et de Tchernobyl, le césium 137 s’est déposé sur les grains de raisin et s’est retrouvé dans le vin. Étant donné que sa période de (demi) vie est de 30 ans, il ne peut exister dans la nature, sauf par suite des activités humaines.

Courbe de référence, établie par le CENBG, montrant l’évolution du taux de césium 137 dans le vin de 1950 à nos jours. ©CENBG

Nous venions ainsi de découvrir une méthode permettant de dater et d’authentifier le vin sans avoir besoin d’en ouvrir les bouteilles. L’intérêt s’est révélé important pour les bouteilles anciennes des grands crus « millésimés » : toute bouteille antérieure à 1950 qui contient du césium 137 est nécessairement fausse !

Bouteille de vin sur un détecteur de très basses radioactivités du CENBG. ©CENBG/O. Got

Notre première application porta sur un lot de bouteilles millésimées 1900 mises en vente l’année 2000. Il paraissait impossible d’avoir autant de bouteilles de cette période sur le marché. L’affaire est passée devant le juge qui se demandait comment prouver l’authenticité de ces bouteilles. On nous a alors demandé de mesurer le niveau de césium 137 d’une de ces bouteilles. Il n’a pas fallu plus de 10 minutes pour se rendre compte qu’elle était fausse : nous avons vu grimper le pic de césium sous nos yeux.

Et pour la petite histoire :

Il y a 3 ans, j’ai été contacté par un grand collectionneur de vin, très intéressé par une bouteille Yquem 1811 mise en vente aux enchères. Considéré comme unique, ce vin l’intéressait beaucoup car en 1811 une comète était passée et le vin de cette année là est, paraît-il, exceptionnel. En plus du millésime 1811, un coffret de trois « Château Yquem » 1800, 1900 et 2000 était proposé.

En regardant les photos des bouteilles, je me suis dit : Ce n’est pas possible, la forme de ces bouteilles n’existait pas encore en 1800 et 1811, il est donc impossible qu’il s’agisse d’authentiques Yquem 1800 et 1811 ! Comme il était trop tard pour annuler la vente, le commissaire priseur a mis les bouteilles aux enchères sous réserve d’une authentification par notre laboratoire. Les deux lots ont été vendus : l’Yquem 1811 à 40 000€, et le coffret à 60 000€.

Mais après la vente, on s’est aperçu que l’acheteur n’était autre que le propriétaire-vendeur ! La peur de l’expertise l’a conduit à racheter ses propres bouteilles. Inutile de préciser que la vente de ces bouteilles frauduleuses a finalement été annulée. Comme quoi, ce n’est plus la peine de faire des mesures, il suffit de dire qu’on va faire une expertise ! »

— anecdote fournie par le Centre d’études nucléaires de Bordeaux Gradignan (CENBG), unité mixte de recherche du CNRS/IN2P3 et de l’Université Bordeaux 1, dans le cadre des 40 ans de l’IN2P3.


Voilà la mission que Sa Sainteté Gyalwang Drukpa s’est donné. Il était en visite au CERN hier accompagné de deux Lamas et douze nonnes spécialistes du kung fu. Le Gyalwang Drukpa est un chef spirituel bouddhiste juste en-dessous du Dalai Lama dans la hiérarchie bouddhiste. Sa philosophie se base sur l’entraide, le respect de l’environnement et l’émancipation des femmes.

Pourquoi s’accompagner de douze nonnes et non pas des moines pour cette tournée européenne ? « Les gens adorent les voir donner une performance » m’a-t-il expliqué. « De cette façon, j’espère promouvoir l’égalité entre les sexes dans le monde ».

Il y a quelques années, le Gyalwang Drukpa réalisa que dans son Ladakh natal, une région coincée entre le Tibet, l’Inde et le Pakistan, les nonnes bouddhistes étaient confinées au rôle de servantes des moines, cuisinant et nettoyant pour eux. Il a alors cherché à les émanciper, leur offrant un entrainement au kung fu pour améliorer leur santé et leur équilibre spirituel tout en les dotant d’un moyen d’auto-défense. Il leur a aussi permis de pratiquer toutes les cérémonies rituelles jusqu’alors réservées aux moines.

Pressé d’élaborer davantage sur ce point, Sa Sainteté Gyalwang Drukpa a dit espérer accomplir bien plus que le simple équilibre entre les genres. « Les hommes et les femmes portent chacun une énergie différente » a-t-il expliqué à une poignée de physicien-ne-s légèrement perplexes, tout en pointant dans la direction de la salle de contrôle d’ATLAS. Il a apparenté cette énergie à celle dégagée à cent mètres sous nos pieds au moment même dans le Grand Collisionneur de Hadrons. « L’énergie des hommes et celle des femmes sont toutes deux nécessaires pour l’enrichissement de l’humanité. Ceci est un principe aussi profond et fondamental que la relation entre le soleil et la lune ».

Son intérêt envers le CERN vient de l’importance qu’il accorde à l’éducation et la recherche scientifique pour l’amélioration de la condition humaine. Il a d’ailleurs établi une fondation appelée “Live to Love” pour promouvoir l’éducation, et tout particulièrement celle des filles, l’aide humanitaire et le développement durable.

Sa fondation détient même le record Guinness pour avoir planté 50033 arbres en 33 minutes.

Toutes les nonnes éclataient de santé et d’équilibre, proprement rasées et vêtues de magnifiques toges pourpres. Le Gyalwang Drukpa lui-même souriait et plaisantait abondamment, visiblement réjoui de sa visite. Quand j’ai interrogé quelques nonnes pour connaître le pourquoi de leur présence, l’une d’elle m’a simplement répondu : « Tourisme ».

Les sœurs de mon école avaient une toute autre allure. Heureusement que Sœur Minguy, la directrice, n’était pas adepte des arts martiaux, car j’aurais passé un mauvais quart d’heure…

Pauline Gagnon

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This is the mission His Holiness Gyalwang Drukpa set for himself. He paid a colourful visit to CERN yesterday accompanied by two Lamas and twelve kung fu nuns. The Gyalwang Drukpa is a spiritual leader only slightly below the Dalai Lama in the Buddhist hierarchy. His philosophy is based on principles of mutual aid, respect of the environment, education and women empowerment.

“People like to see the nuns perform”, he told me when I asked him why he was touring Europe accompanied by twelve nuns and not monks. “This way”, he said, “I hope to raise awareness about gender equality in the world.”

A few years ago, Gyalwang Drukpa realized the Buddhist nuns in his homeland of Ladakh, a small region nestled between Tibet, India and Pakistan, were often mere servants for the monks, confined to cooking and cleaning for them. He sought to emancipate them and had the nuns trained in kung fu practice to improve their health and spiritual balance while also providing them with a means of self-defence. He even allowed women to perform all the sacred rites once reserved only to monks.

When asked a bit more about it, His Holiness Gyalwang Drukpa explained that he is seeking more than just equality between the genders. “Men and women carry different energy”, he explained to a few puzzled physicists while gesturing with his arm pointing in the direction of the ATLAS control room. He likened this energy with the one released at that very moment a hundred metres under our feet in the Large Hadron Collider. “Both male and female energies are needed to better the world”. He stated how profound and scientific this principle is, as fundamental as the relation between the Sun and the Moon.

His interest in CERN stems from the importance he sees in science and education to improve human condition. He started a foundation called “Live to Love” that fosters education especially for young girls, humanitarian aid and sustainable development. His foundation holds the Guinness record for having planted 50033 trees in 33 minutes.

All of the nuns exuded health and inner balance, cleanly shaved and beautifully clad in long burgundy robes. The Gyalwang Drukpa himself smiled and joked a lot, clearly enjoying his visit. When I asked some of the nuns what their role was in the group, one of them simply answered: “Just sightseeing”.

The nuns in my school sure looked different. Good thing Sister Minguy, the school head, did not perform any type of martial arts or I would have been in deep trouble!

Pauline Gagnon

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