For some, Friday 13th can be like walking on egg shells or may remind you of a burnt guy with claws for hands raiding your sweet dreams. Now, I’m not a fan of superstitious behavior and so it’s just another beautiful day, but this Friday 13th September turned out to be a very special day indeed.
I received an email explaining that I had been chosen, with 12 others to participate in the CERNTweetup Event at CERN in Geneva. I couldn’t believe my eyes and read it back carefully at least a dozen times. It was an opportunity I could not afford to miss out on!
The next step was to book a flight and hotel and then let the dreaded waiting game cometh. During this waiting phase, the 12 of us quickly began communicating through Twitter, the excitement seemed fever pitch!
CERN, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research, has been at the heart of nuclear research and in recent years has famously become synonymous with the search of the so-called and controversial ‘God Particle’, the Higgs Boson. It’s a place where physicists and engineers are “probing the fundamental structure of the universe.” Most recently, the 2013 Nobel Prize was awarded to François Englert and Peter W. Higgs for their work on the discovery of the Higgs Boson.
Particle Colliders of immense scale have been produced 100 meters underground which are able to smash particles at close to the speed of light together, to better understand the fundamental particles and how they interact with one another.
Another very important invention was made in 1989, with the work of celebrated British Scientist, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, who invented and gave birth to the World Wide Web at CERN. You can read up more about this online directly from thier website for more information on everything CERN is about, please check http://home.web.cern.ch .
I have written about CERN in previous blog posts and my appreciation for the important work they are doing, on topics of the Higgs Boson to the exciting theory of Super symmetry. My art and design interest together with nature and the mysteries of the universe have always interested me and increasingly so after I began taking a basic interest in particle physics years ago.
Last year, CERN hosted their first ever Tweepup event, where a group of select individuals from across the world would be invited for a special visit, while sharing the experience via twitter. This is a great idea for CERN to gather interest in the type of science, innovation and technology they provide and work towards. Since they are mainly dealing with aspects of our world which we can not see with the naked eye, it makes sense for the physics communities to inform and educate us with imaginative and articulate ways to get the message across, whilst keeping ahead with the technology they help create in the online social age.
This year the Tweetup event was on Friday 27th September 2013 with Public Open Days throughout the weekend. I knew it would be a special experience and since this years would be the 2nd only Public Open Day event at CERN, I was interested in staying through the weekend, and I’m glad I did!
The day at CERN began with a meeting and introduction session from organisers, Kate Kahle and Alex Brown. Meeting the fellow tweeters and organisers was great and it was finally good to actually see them all. The group was varied and consisted of a scientist, engineer, consultant, film maker, and others from all over the world. We all had a passion for physics and the work being achieved at CERN, and it was evident that from hearing the vibrations and beeps resonating from everyone’s mobiles every few seconds, this TweetUp had finally begun!
The day followed with a behind the scenes preview of CERN, with an exclusive visit 100 metres underground to see the Large Hadron Collider. It was unbelievable that we we’re all still able to hammer out tweets so far underground! The tunnels we’re of immense proportions, the pipes, magnets, and all manner of equipment was in immaculate condition. It was amazing to see the tunnels but to also try and comprehend how this was all made and how it worked. As mind boggling as the tunnels looked with all the red, yellow, green, blue and copper wires and equipment, it was clear that the organisation to look after the structure was greatly maintained. I remember tweeting that
“the design and logistics to build this is just mind blowing”
the tunnels had now become one of my personal Wonders of the World…even more so when we reached the France and Swiss Border!
Following the underground visit, we we’re directed to the canteen for lunch with some of the CERN physicists and others including Steven Goldfarb, who can be seen hosting CERN’s youtube videos. Whilst on our way there, we walked through the famous corridor that Sir Tim Berners-Lee birthed the World Wide Web.
I managed to spot the Graphic Design department on the way to the canteen, in hindsight; I wished I had locked myself in there!
It was great to see and feel no segregation of all the mix of cultures, people and ages, eating and sharing ideas with one another without any prejudices. Seeing such a diversity of the minds under one roof with no partitions or egos of grandeur was an amazing feeling.
Photo opportunities we’re taken with the big blue magnet that sits outside the canteen area before we moved on to a surprise meeting and sit down with theoretical physicist Dr. John Ellis. Extra Dimensions, super symmetry and the Higgs Boson we’re on the menu for discussion and the Doctor was mesmerising with his talk, one of the best discussions/informal chats we had that day in my opinion.
Coming from Indian descent, it was unbelievable to see a 2 m high statue of the Hindu God Shiva in the symbolic Nataraja depiction which symbolizes the cosmic dance of creation and destruction. The statue had been given to CERN by the Indian government in 2004. The relationship and parallels to the ‘dance’ of subatomic particles and Shiva’s Nataraja depiction have been discussed by Fritjof Capra in a article “The Dance of Shiva: The Hindu View of Matter in the Light of Modern Physics” which was published in Main Currents in Modern Thought in 1972.
Our next stop was CERN’s Computer Centre, where data is crunched on a grid computing framework where physicists from around the world can access the data in close to real time, to allow an easier way to sieve through the Petabytes of data that comes in though from the colliders. We could see on screens above that data was being transferred between servers across the world at unbelievable speeds of up to 8GB per second!!
We had a surprising visit to a newly built room, with fancy opaque windows, within the computing facility that showcased certain technologies and we got to see the NeXT computer that was famously used by Tim Berners-Lee and Robert Cailliau when developing the World Wide Web.
Following this, we had another intimate talk with Ben Segal and François Flückiger, two people that worked closely with Tim Berners-Lee during the early birth of the World Wide Web, giving us an insight in the before and after the ‘Web Bang’!
The day ended with an exclusive entrance for the Origins 2013 European Researchers Night event which took place at The Globe of Science & Innovation. The globe is a breath taking wooden design structure at 27 metres high and 40 metres wide and screams out sustainability! Acoustics we’re great within the globe and looked spectacular at night.
It was quite late in the evening by the time the Origins Event had finished and as much as I was feeling overloaded with information, physics, science and art, I wished there was more…with possibly a sleeping break in between just to soak in all the good information that was received!
It was by far one of the best experience’s I’ve had and I still can’t believe I was there just two months ago. The work that happens at CERN and the people that put such an amazing Tweetup, Origins2013 and Open Day Events deserve so much credit, thank you CERN for making such an experience possible! Kate Kahle, Alex Brown and Abha Eli, Thank you all!
My love for physics has grown since I’ve come back from Geneva, and a good reading list to get through! I’ve been thinking a lot about what was learnt over that weekend, how I can apply this to my work as a digital designer and artist and even ideas as to how I would like to apply for the artist residency at CERN one day…or even a job opening at the Graphic Design department! I would end the use of Comic Sans from their documents for starters! Other than seeing that wretched font, it was a great experience and anyone interested should keep a check on their twitter page for next years event.
I can’t wait to visit CERN again, hopefully next year…closer though is a visit to the Collider Exhibition now on at the Science Museum in London which I’m really looking forward to visiting this week!
If you’d like to view more images from the Tweetup event and Open Days please check out the pictures from the day on my Flickr at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/veeladwa/