Sitting astride the Franco-Swiss border, near Geneva, sits the CERN laboratory. It was founded in 1954 as one of Europe’s first joint ventures, ratified by 12 Western European nations, and now has 21 additional member states.
CERN stands for, “Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire.” Translated, this means The European Organization for Nuclear Research. They operate the largest particle physics laboratory in the world. In 2013, they employed 2,513 staff members and hosted 12,313 fellow, associates and apprentices along with visiting scientists and engineers representing a total of 608 universities and research facilities.
What the scientists are doing at CERN is probing the fundamental structure of the universe. Using the world’s largest and most scientifically advanced instruments, they are studying the fundamental particles of matter. Essentially, they are trying to recreate the “Big Bang Theory”trying to find what is called the “God Particle.” These instruments are purpose-built particle accelerators and detectors. They boost beams of particles at super high energies and then force them to collide with each other, or stationary objects.
CERN is also the birthplace of the World Wide Web. The main site which is in Meyrin, contains powerful data processing facilities, used primarily for experimental data processing analysis. Because of the need to make this information available to researchers around the world, it has historically been a major wide area networking hub.
Most of the activities at CERN involve using a Large Hadron Collider (LHC). The LHC tunnel is located 100 meters below ground of where the dome is pictured above. This tunnel is 27 km in circumference! The first attempt to circulate a beam through the entire tunnel was in 2008, but failed due to a faulty magnetic connection.
After shutting down for repairs, in November of 2009, the scientists successfully circulated two beams through the tunnel, each with an energy of 3.5 trillion electron volts! The challenge was to have these beams smash into each other, which was described by engineer Steve Myers, director for accelerators and technology, like “shooting two needles across the Atlantic and getting them to hit each other.”
This is an actual image taken from high energy physics media showing the interaction of high speed particles. Kind of trippy looking right?
Well, while I think all of this is pretty cool, and I appreciate the magnitude of the work and the engineering that takes place in this facility, I am by no means a nuclear physicist and this is all way beyond my realm of understanding.
But that’s not what this article is about. There has been a lot of fear and controversy surrounding this facility and that is what I personally find truly interesting. Let’s take a look.
This is the logo for CERN. What do you see? Many people read it like this.
The numerals 666 are recognized by millions as the number of the beast, or Satan. It just happens to be one of my favorite Iron Maiden songs by the way.