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Tour of the LHC
Worthwhile?


I recently had an enquiry about the LHC tour and whether it was worth the effort. You'll find this conversation about the Large Hadron Collider at CERN on Tripadvisor.

Amy wrote to me as she'd heard that visiting the Large Hadron Collider is basically watching two videos of the CERN facility and asked if that was the case.  Here's the conversation on Tripadvisor.


LHC, collision of particles from wikipedia

Our opinion was this visit to the research facility, at the frontiers of science, was the highlight of our 8 weeks away in Europe.  We've been to Europe a number of times previously, so you can imagine you can get somewhat jaded by yet another Roman Forum or yet another majestic cathedral. Yet, here we were at the threshold of man's knowledge about the cosmos, the beginnings of the universe and the reality that there may be more than the dimension we're familiar with. Being based at Chamonix, only an hour's drive away, we took the opportunity to spend a day here.

The best thing about visiting the LHC at CERN, Switzerland:

  • it's free
  • it's conducted by PhD students and retired physicists, so you are able to ask questions of their work
  • They are fluent ( in our case, an English language group)
  • The scientists did their best to explain to a layman in terms that did not in anyway make the visitors look uneducated or silly. For example one of our group asked what it was they were trying to discover, and was it "energy". The physicist replied it was "particles" and gave a simplified answer of what particles mean.  For us laypeople whose knowledge of science stopped at high school, this was amazing stuff.
  • The Exhibition center was really amazing. We returned after the official visit concluded as the exhibits were fascinating
  • You are allowed to visit an area where scientists and PhD students are at their research
  • You're able to ask questions and you'll be given interested attention
  • Only an hour away from Chamonix.

The downside of visiting CERN:

  • You can't go into the tunnel.
  • You can't go and see the actual experiments. Naturally, this is a clean facility and highly radioactive. Entry is restricted even for scientists and those working at CERN, let alone tourists.
  • There are the two videos, but the best part was asking questions afterwards.
  • While there are displays of what it is they've discovered and how virtually all of us use these discoveries everyday, I did wish it was presented in a more comprehensive manner friendly to laypeople much in the manner of the Exhibition Center.

This visit, for all of us including my husband who is a physicist and engineer and my son who is a student engineer,  was certainly the highlight of our vacation.


More about the LHC

The large hadron collider at CERN Switzerland
the office at CERN Switzerland
the LHC at CERN Switzerland



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