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Switzerland’s CERN – A Must-See

Every age has its exciting, leading-edge, science. Once the purview of space, this exciting science is now underground – 100 meters, to be exact.

CERN HeadquartersThat’s where you’ll find CERN, home of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the particle accelerator that is helping scientists explore the very basics of our universe – What is it, anyway? And how did it begin? And when?

Even if you have never fancied yourself a scientific genius, or at the very least, a nerd, you still have undoubtedly looked up into the night sky at one time or another, and asked those very questions. And that’s why you should most definitely consider a visit to CERN.

Thankfully, the more than 10,000 scientists from 113 countries that are affiliated with the CERN facility understand that even if most of us are not scientists, what is being done at CERN is none-the-less fascinating.

When you seek out CERN – it is located in Meyrin, near Geneva – you’ll be happy to learn that the facility does a bang-up job of presenting the collider and its science in wonderfully down-to-earth presentations, both with tours and permanent exhibits.

The name “CERN” actually represents the European Organization for Nuclear Research (the acronym is derived from the French translation.) For most of the general public the term also refers to the massive facility itself, where 2,400 full time employees, assisted by 1,500 part-time employees, support the world’s top scientists.

And this is a big place. The Large Hadron Collider utilizes a tunnel that is 27 km (just over 16.5 miles) in circumference.

Cern picture

As most people with a passion, the scientists and officials of CERN love to show off what they do. To that end you can take a guided tour as you are welcomed with open arms to this largest particle physics laboratory in the world.

When you visit CERN, you should plan on being at the facility about 3 hours. That would include the time for a tour, as well as seeing the exhibits. Admission to the facility, as well as to the exhibits and attending a tour, is all at no charge.

CERN does have a restaurant that is open to the public. Most folks are also happy to find a well-stocked gift shop that offers books and other educational materials, as well as clothing and other CERN-related gift items.

Guided tours for individuals and guided tours for large groups are both accommodated. English and French are the primary languages spoken, but in some cases other languages are utilized – just ask. Do note that due to limited capacity, you need to book your tour ahead of time.

For obvious safety reasons, children 8 years old and younger are not permitted on the tour. They can, however, be taken into the exhibit areas. Also there may be times when officials need to change the tour itinerary in such a way that also prevents children under 13 from being on a tour.

And here’s something you don’t encounter on a tour every day – the CERN facility actually crosses over the border between Switzerland and France, which means that on the guided tour you will be required to show your passport.

For some of you a Schengen Visa might also be required. Be sure to check with officials at your embassy.

The on-site exhibition areas at CERN offer two unique experiences:

1. Universe of Particles

Located in the Globe of Science and Innovation, this exhibit allows you to look at the questions and the work of the CERN scientists “up close and personal” as they labor to understand particle theories. In a nut shell, all of the known universe is made up of particles, and scientists are trying to figure out where those particles came from and what laws govern them.

Here is a sneak peek of what you will see in the Universe of Particles exhibit:

2. Microcosm

Even if we don’t know what they are, most of us have at least heard of quarks and cosmic rays. In this exhibit you’ll learn more about them, along with discovering antiprotons and things called gluons.

It is here that you’ll also be introduced to the massive accelerators and particle detectors that are used by CERN scientists.

This fun exhibit area is interactive with games, experiments, and actual machines all to help you explore the universe’s many mysteries by experiencing how the scientists actually do their work.

It is easy to get to CERN by flying into the Geneva International Airport, then taking a bus, the train, or a car for a quick ten-minute ride. Keep an eye out for CERN’s distinctive dome-shaped building.

Alice Perkins is a travel blogger for RedWeek.com, the largest online market place for timeshare rentals, where vacationers can find luxury accommodations for less than the cost of a typical hotel room.
Photo Credits: espace.cern.ch

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