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Ken Bloom | USLHC | USA

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CERN and LHC, through new eyes

Here I am on another trip to CERN, but this one is different. I’m in the midst of a five-week stay here, in the company of my family. Usually my trips are much shorter, and they have always been solo. But we wanted to give this a shot — we figured that it would be a good experience for the family, everyone would get to see a lot of new things, and perhaps we will get a sense of what it would be like to spend a sabbatical-length stay here sometime in the future.

Even though I have been to CERN and Geneva many times before, I am getting to experience it all anew because it is new to my family. The sort of things that I had noted on my own early visits and then filed away have been pulled back into prominence. We brought a college student with us to help take care of the kids, so that my wife and I can both work. She has been accompanying me to CERN most days and getting her own experience of lab life. She is enjoying the international flavor of CERN — hearing so many different languages being spoken and seeing the cultural interaction. And she also gets a sense of my harried days here! (Then again, that is compensated for by leisurely lunches on the Restaurant 1 terrace.) For our children, ages two and four, the new experiences have been much more quotidian, but when you are that small even the quotidian stands out. There are different foods to eat here (nutella! for breakfast!), and in the town where we are staying there is a fresh milk vending machine out on the street. People here tend to hang their laundry to dry instead of using a dryer, so the drying rack is a source of fascination. And so forth.

For myself, I’m really feeling the impact of being in the different time zone. Back at home, seven hours behind CERN, my day is very front-loaded, with all of the CMS meetings happening early in my day. Here, everything is at the end of the day, with the action not really getting going until 3 PM. This interferes with family life quite a bit; I can’t really stay for a late meeting if I’m going to have dinner from the kids. Worse still, I find myself trying to work both time zones while I’m here, as there is plenty of US business happening during the CERN evening hours. When I’m here on my own, I have more time to manage this, but while tending to my family also, I am constantly scrambling to keep up! (Note: blog post being written at 11:30 CERN time….)

But, despite all of that, we’re enjoying our stay here. We’re getting out to see Geneva and environs, and trying to enjoy ourselves. In particle physics, we’re very lucky to be able to visit places all around the world. If we’re going to travel so much, we might as well take advantage of it!

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