The work of CERN1, the European Laboratory for Particle Physics, is to understand how matter behaves. What are the ultimate constituents of the Universe? Where do they come from? How do they all hold together? These exciting questions have been asked by each successive civilisation and it is the responsibility of scientists to communicate clearly the research which is carried out to further our understanding. CERN takes this responsibility seriously and in 1990 opened Microcosm, a permanent exhibition on the CERN site, to explain to the general public CERN's research and to communicate the excitement of science.
Microcosm proved extremely popular and since its opening has attracted over 20 000 visitors each year - school children, families and tourists. This summer, Microcosm has been given a complete facelift, updating the contents, introducing more interactive displays and adding many new exhibits. On 1 September, the new exhibition was opened by the Director General, Prof Chris Llewellyn Smith, who thanked all involved in the project for their excellent work.
People often feel that scientific research is impossible to understand. CERN's new Microcosm will prove that this is wrong. The famous American physicist, Richard Feynman, correctly said :"If you can't explain your research to your grandmother, then you don't understand it yourself." and CERN's Microcosm's team has designed an exhibition which explains the basic principles of high energy physics in a way which is easy to understand and enjoyable to all.
Here are some of the questions answered by Microcosm's new exhibits :
Do you have a particle accelerator in your home?
Take a look at some real data from an experiment at LEP, CERN's 27 km accelerator. Have a go accelerating particles yourself. Will you be able to get the particle up to collision energy?
What do cookery and particle physics have in common?
How big are the latest computer chips? Have a look through the microscope.
How many physicists and engineers from all over the world are already working on CERN's next accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider, LHC, and its enormous detectors?
Why must the world's largest refrigerator make the LHC's magnets colder than outer space?
- How will physicist sinterpret the colossal flow of data through from LHC detectors , equivalent to the 5 thousand million people on earth simultaneously making 20 phone calls each?
After all this activity, take a rest in the Web Café and surf the World Wide Web at its birthplace - CERN.
The renovation of Microcosm is both internal and external, in addition to the completely changed exhibition, a new access gallery has been constructed, giving views over the square Van Hove, which contains exhibits of famous scientific equipment. Further building is planned, with the completion in 1998 of a completely new access and facilities block linking CERN's reception building to Microcosm.
The Microcosm exhibition is in the Reception building on the CERN Meyrin site. The number 9 bus takes you to the door, or if you come by car there is parking directly outside. As from 2 September 1997, Microcosm is open to the public Monday to Saturday, from 9am to 5pm. Entrance is free. For more information please phone 022/ 767 8484.
1. CERN, the European Laboratory for Particle Physics, has its headquarters in Geneva. At present, its Member States are Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, the Slovak Republic, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Israel, Japan, the Russian Federation, Turkey, the European Commission and Unesco have observer status.