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Cwmcarn teacher visits the largest machine in the world!

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(and where the World Wide Web started)

Cwmcarn Physics teacher Mr Pearce was lucky enough to be selected to attend the Welsh Teacher Programme at CERN laboratories, Geneva Switzerland from 7 – 10 February 2017.  

CERN is home to the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) the largest particle accelerator in the world, which has been described as the largest machine in the world. CERN is also where Tim Berners-Lee, a British scientist, invented the World Wide Web (WWW) in 1989.

The World’s largest machine

Fig 1 Atlas detector WebThe $9 billion LHC straddles the French-Swiss border. Beams consisting of trillions of protons - subatomic particles – race around a 17-mile circuit within a tunnel, buried up to 175 meters underground. The protons reach speeds of 99.9999991% the speed of light. At certain points, within massive detectors, the beams are made to collide, and 600 million proton collisions every second can be achieved.


Extreme temperaturesFig 2 CMS detector web

When the two beams of protons collide, they will generate temperatures more than 100,000 times hotter than the heart of the sun, concentrated within a miniscule space.


Massive gravitational pull

The LHC is composed of some 9,600 super magnets – which are 100,000 times more powerful than the gravitational pull of Earth


World’s largest fridge

All the magnets will be pre-cooled to -193°C using 10,080 tons of liquid nitrogen, before they are filled with nearly 60 tons of liquid helium to bring them down to -271°C

Some of the questions that scientists are trying to answer using the LHC are: Fig 3 Dr Lyn Evans

 What is mass?

What is the origin of mass? Why do some particles have no mass at all?

What is 96% of the universe made of?

Investigating the nature of dark matter and dark energy

Why is there no more antimatter?

Why does nature seem to have a bias for matter over antimatter?

What was matter like within the first second of the Universe’s life?

Investigating quark-gluon plasma

Do extra dimensions of space really exist?

Hidden dimension may become detectable at very high energies



The Welsh Teacher Programme at CERN was set up thanks to Dr Lyn Evans, who was the project leader for the LHC.

Dr Evans, the son of a miner from Aberdare grew up in a council house in Cwmbach, is now one of the most influential physicists in the world.

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