For a number of years, the Ampleforth College Physics department has been taking students to CERN in Switzerland on what has almost become a pilgrimage.

CERN houses the largest scientific experiment ever built, the Large Hadron Collider. The LHC is a 27 km circumference particle accelerator, which collides protons at velocities approaching the speed of light. The accelerating tubes are one of the coldest and emptiest places in the Universe. Particle detectors that weigh as much as the Eiffel Tower are buried 100 meters underground and have been manufactured to a precision of less than the width of a human hair. They take a staggering 40 million snapshots of colliding nuclei per second. The LHC is easily both conceptually and mechanically one of the most ambitious human endeavours in history. Anybody with even a passing interest in Physics would be remiss to pass up the opportunity to see it. And yet, despite the how incredibly advanced and intricate the LHC is, it shows a direct application of some of the topics studied at A-Level Physics, the mechanics of circular motion, fields and electricity are all applied on a real world scale so vast as to be almost unimaginable.

The trip also gives the students a chance to explore Geneva, and see both the UN headquarters there, and the headquarters of the Red Cross. There are also stunning views of the Alps and Lake Geneva, and the opportunity to try a traditional Swiss dish, fondue!