Fourmilab home page

My Trip to CERN  (Source, Mick Storr's office door, R006, in CERN building 33)

April 22nd, 2013

CERN home page

In April 2013 I had the privilege of visiting CERN: the premier particle physics laboratory in the world. The Large Hadron Collider, the largest and most complicated machine ever constructed by our species, had been shut down for a protracted period of maintenance and upgrades, with a goal of doubling its centre of mass collision energy to the original design value of 14 TeV. While nobody is allowed in the accelerator tunnels and detector halls while the machine is running (for the excellent reason that the radiation and magnetic field would quickly kill them), during the stand-down the environment is benign and, if you know somebody, it is possible to visit these magnificent machines.

Prof. Glenn Starkman of Case Western Reserve University, who also works in the theory section at CERN, invited me to accompany a tour he had organised. I immediately accepted. I'd been lucky enough to tour CERN in January of 1996, while the Large Electron-Positron Collider (LEP) was shut down for maintenance, and images of the amazing sights I saw then (sadly, without a camera to record them) remained etched upon my mind. I looked forward eagerly to seeing the even more gargantuan hardware of the LHC.

Like so many things, CERN is much more locked down today than it was in the 1990s. Then, you could see the entire chain of particle acceleration from the linear accelerator to the Proton Synchrotron (PS), the Super Proton Synchrotron (SPS), and the LEP; the experiment halls on the PS and SPS beam lines, and wander freely into the LEP tunnel and appreciate its curvature. Still, there are wonders to be seen underground at CERN, and I shall always cherish having had the opportunity to do so. This photo essay is a collection of images from my visit. I will try to identify what you're seeing in each image, but not attempt to explain the operation of the hardware—there are far more authoritative sources readily available on the Internet. I close with some photographic tips for visitors to CERN which I wish I'd been able to read before my own trip.

CERN Headquarters CERN Headquarters
Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS)
TOTEM Experiment TOTEM Experiment
Accelerator Technology Laboratory Accelerator Technologies Laboratory
Photographing CERN Photographing CERN

by John Walker
May 12th, 2013

This document is in the public domain.