Many people have a sore throat this week at CERN. Not too surprising given the 70 000 inquisitive visitors we welcomed over the weekend! It was amazing to see so much interest from the public and the enthusiasm of the 2300 volunteers.
Everybody pitched in. From the fire brigade to the experiments, every one was showing their part of the lab. Accelerator specialists and physicists, administrative and support staff, everybody was proudly wearing their bright orange T-shirt.
Thanks to the ticketing system for the underground visits, the queuing time was reduced with respect to the previous event in 2008. It was not easy to accommodate every one who wanted to see the large detectors sitting 100 meters underground, the elevators capacity being the limiting factor. Nevertheless, 20 000 people were taken down in small groups to one of the underground visit points
But there was loads of action taking place at the surface too. I was at the ATLAS stand on Saturday morning to answer questions about the lab and the various research activities. I met people who had come from the Czech Republic, Sweden, Lithuania, Poland, Algeria, USA, Scotland, Spain and even Australia just to have the opportunity to explore the world’s largest particle physics laboratory.
The volunteers were also happily grabbing the opportunity to discover areas they had never visited before. This was certainly my case and I zipped up and down the road trying to peek at as many sites as possible between my assignments.
I was particularly impressed by the enthusiasm displayed by the machinists in the huge workshop adjacent to my office. I pass by this every morning but had never had a chance to see the mind-boggling pieces and machinery the team had on display. All sorts of round objects blown out of metal or milled, some with puzzling shape, geometry or size.
There was much entertainment for the young and not-so-young crowd too. The crane operators had them go up in tall cherry pickers or lift huge weights from a joy-stick box. Fire fighters had spectacular burning displays or staging rescue operations underground.
The cryogenics department had its popular liquid nitrogen stand, with the superconducting levitating scooter as one of the main attractions.
As I was making my way back to my car shortly before 8 pm on Sunday, I noticed one of my young colleagues was still enthusiastically explaining the working of a dipole magnet. He had started at 8 am the previous day and he was still displaying the same passion although with slightly less voice!
Many lectures given during the weekend will be available shortly.
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