Grammar pupils take day trip to ‘Disneyland of physics’

Calverley House

SIXTH form pupils from Tunbridge Wells Grammar School for Boys were given a rare tour of the world’s largest particle accelerator last month while on a visit to the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN).

The 29 A-Level physics students were given a three and a half hour tour of the agency, which is at the cutting edge of scientific discovery and is situated on the border of Switzerland and France.

One pupil described the trip as akin to visiting ‘a physicist’s Disneyland’.

Their tour on April 21, included being able to view the first World Wide Web server and the letter written by Tim Berners-Lee to his supervisor at CERN, outlining his ideas on the future of the internet.

Unusually, the tour group were allowed underground to where the Large Hadron Collider runs in a 17 mile loop at a depth of between 100-175m below the surface.

The boys were taken to the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) detector, which one of two large general-purpose particle physics detectors built on the Large Hadron Collider.

Its purpose is to investigate a wide range of physics, including the search for the Higgs boson, extra dimensions, and particles that could make up dark matter.

The detector is immense – 21.6m long, 15m in diameter and weighing the same as two Eiffel Towers (14 000 tonnes).

Mr Darrell Hamilton, Head of Physics, and trip organiser, said; “Although there were some reservations about the wisdom of a day trip to CERN, the enthusiastic engagement with and praise for, the experience by the students was tremendously rewarding.”

Alec Walsh, a Year 13 pupil at the school, said: “To everyone, including the staff’s, surprise we were lucky enough to be chosen to visit the Compact Muon Solenoid. It was a bit of a physicist’s Disneyland to stand so close to such a significant machine.”

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