Mr Wilkins Visits CERN
Tuesday, 21 March, 2017 | Filed in: Science
On the 7th of February I was lucky enough to be chosen to take part in the annual Welsh Teachers Visit to CERN, the huge science experiment in Geneva, Switzerland. The program was aimed at providing 24 Physics teachers, like myself, with first hand experience of the cutting edge research being carried out at the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN). Over four days, we attended tailored lectures and workshops delivered by a variety of speakers, all leaders in their fields. I found it surprising how many of these eminent speakers were either Welsh or working at Welsh universities. One of the most fascinating talks was on the researching of anti-hydrogen, a project run by the University of Swansea, with their findings only recently published.The highlight of the trip was a visit to the CMS detector, one of the experiments set up on the Large Hadron Collider in an attempt to prove the existence of the Higgs Boson. We were fortunate that the visit coincided with the winter maintenance program meaning the collider was shut down. You’d think this was a bad thing but actually meant we were able to go down into the tunnels and see the equipment first hand. It was doubly fortunate that the CMS detector was under going maintenance, with the protective shield removed and the inside elements opened up. It’s hard to describe the scale of what we were able to see, but imagine an object the length and width of a swimming pool and the height of a four story building. All of this science equipment is taking 75 Megapixel images 40 million times per second!
It wasn’t all about the unravelling of fundamental physics, we also had some talks and looked at the technology that has been developed at CERN that has a huge impact on our lives. I posed outside the office where the Internet was born; spoke to the team responsible for the super cooled magnets where new developments are leading to smaller and cheaper MRI and PET scanners in UK hospitals. One of the most exciting developments in the treatment of cancers that will soon be available in the UK will be proton beam therapy. These will work using the magnets, electronics and super cool technology developed and improved at CERN to provide potentially life saving technology back here in Wales.You can find out more about my trip, including some of the terrible selfies taken by visiting the Science Departments Twitter feed, @YBEScience.