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CERN | Geneva | Switzerland

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Visiting CERN in London

If you have not had a chance to visit CERN in Geneva, you can now do it in London. The London Science Museum just opened a new exhibition called: Collider. I had the opportunity to visit it and can confirm that this exhibition conveys the impression of being at CERN.

The exhibition, open until May 2014, explores the people, science and engineering behind the largest scientific experiment ever constructed, the Large Hadron Collider at CERN.

The exhibition starts in a small amphitheatre where visitors get the feeling of sitting in CERN main auditorium on 4 July 2012. That was the day the discovery of a new particle, which was later confirmed to be a Higgs boson, was announced. There, a few physicists share their thoughts about particle physics and their participation in that search.

As the curator Alison Boyle explained to my colleagues and I, they tried to portray the essence of various people they had met at CERN over the two years it took them to prepare this exhibition. Although some characters seemed slightly odd, others were strangely familiar.

Prof-Peter-Higgs-and-Prof-SProfessors Peter Higgs and Stephen Hawking during their visit of the Collider exhibition (© Science Museum)

The exhibit is stunning in its clever use of visual effects. Visitors wander at their own leisure through rooms where the walls are covered with life-size pictures of various places at CERN, giving them a sense of being there. Notes scribbled on boards or pieces of papers taped to the wall as one often finds all over the place at CERN add to the likeliness and provide the necessary explanations. Real objects enhance the pictures to create a very special ambiance. A great video animation also gives a feel for what particles go through as they zip through the detectors.

But for CERN people, the most surprising piece is the reproduction of one corridor in its 1950s architecture glory. The walls are pasted with posters announcing a plethora of past and future conferences as well as local events, from the CERN choir down to the LGBT group. It felt like being at work thousands of kilometres away from work.

So if you cannot come see the real thing, this is an excellent substitute to get immersed in CERN ambiance. The exhibition is due to go on tour across the world, giving even more people a chance to experience what it feels like at the world’s largest physics laboratory.

You can follow the exhibition blog here.

Pauline Gagnon

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