In the fourth and final part of the guestblog from Alice Sheppard, we conclude our trip to CERN with a pictorial look round the ATLAS detector. If you’d rather start at the beginning, then part one is here, part two here and part three here. I’d like to thank Alice for assuaging somewhat my annoyance that I’ve never made it to CERN, apologise again for taking so long to put these up, and to invite anyone else who might fancy guestblogging to email me.
CERN – reception floor! “Cosmic Song”, 1986, Serge Moro. Apparently a detector recording cosmic rays, with a programme modulating light information and timing cycle, with 9 lighting circuits arranged under metal floor panels.
As you can probably tell, the walkway was halfway up the wall, which prevented any of us from taking a panoramic photo. Hence, it is impossible to reproduce what ATLAS – the detector – really looked like, which was a bit annoying. The “clock-face” thing was, the guide said, 40m high, though it looked an awful lot bigger.
I’m afraid the technical details of how the detector worked would probably have gone straight over my head even if the roar of machinery hadn’t been so loud; all I can tell you is that there is a lot of aluminium involved, and that they are especially concentrating on capturing muons and to do so are making lots of layers “like an onion”. In the shed-like area was a scary-looking instrument I would have ascribed to the torture trade: a sort of rectangular aluminium rod full of bits of wire, which apparently helps with detection . . . There were hundreds of feet below and above us in that room, and people hurrying back and forth everywhere and doing the most amazing gymnastics on and between machines!
We had finished by lunch time, though there were several hours of fun left in the Microcosm museum. There was something especially uplifting about the message of openness and international concerted effort. There was much emphasis on how CERN was founded by several nations who had recently been fighting each other in World War II, and how Palestinian and Israeli scientists now happily work together. It was also evident that students can come here and find the doors are open to them.
The only annoying thing about the visit was how very little I felt I’d learnt and seen in comparison to how much there actually was there. All the notes I didn’t take, all the times my mind had wandered while the guide might just have been saying something especially interesting! So I’ll end with one of my favourite quotes, by someone called Richard Jeffries:
“In the heart of most of us there is always a desire for something beyond experience. Hardly any of us but have thought, some day I will go on a long voyage, but the years go by and still we have not sailed.”
For more information, see the CERN website.