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Zoe Louise Matthews | ASY-EOS | UK

View Blog | Read Bio

Small world: going from A to B (ALICE to Birmingham)

I’m sitting at the gate in Geneva Aeroport waiting for my flight home and I am suddenly struck by how small the world is when you can fly.

The view from above Geneva this morning. I wanted to get the mountains in but weather did not permit.
The view from above Geneva this morning. I wanted to get the mountains in but weather did not permit.

The delicious meal on thursday night at Restaurant 2, CERN marked the end of ALICE week for most of us, and the room was still buzzing with discussion long after the fantastic chocolate desserts had been polished off (I really must learn the recipe for those chocolate cups with vanilla custard!). Groups debated over physics that came up in the week. Old friends reminisced and delighted in reunions while many new acquaintances were made. Long-standing and experienced physicists left us in awe with anecdotes. Several languages resonated across the tables at once.

Our table had a mixture of Slovak, French and English, with a little Italian and Spanish thrown in. Thoughts on life, snippets of history, political opinions, travel stories and experiences were passed around along with the wine.

Eventually, the ALICE CERN team leader stood to say a few words. The last of them were, “Please try not to spend SO long in your offices once you return to them this evening.” He was, of course, joking, but he highlighted the mad and inescapable truth about particle physicists – we love our work. We really love it. It often becomes so much a part of us that we can’t leave it alone. Many physicists continue to play an active role in research long after retiring. In all our differences, we have in common those days where an unresolved problem is like a thirst, and we put the rest of our lives on hold until we can quench it. We share the need for answers, the need to understand.

It’s been over 2 months since I was last UK and I miss my home, my boyfriend and my family so much, but I am lucky that the journey home is short for me. Many of my colleagues will be returning home this weekend and most will have much further to travel. However, in my opinion, those of us who get the chance to spend substantial time working here are exceptionally lucky. We are right at the heart of watching a mind-bogglingly ambitious project come into fruition, like-minded people brought together from all over the globe by a unified goal. For us the world is so much smaller, because CERN has become one more place to feel totally at home.

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