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Sixth Form trip to Geneva, Switzerland

From 7th to 9th July, a group of staff and Sixth Form students went on a trip to Geneva, Switzerland.


On the first day, staff and students visited the United Nations for a guided tour. During the tour, we visited many of the exhibitions including: the Human Rights and Alliance of Civilizations Room, decorated by famous artist Miquel Barcelò; the Salle des Pas Perdus, from which you can see the Armillary Sphere and the monument commemorating the conquest of outer space; the Assembly Hall, the largest room in the Palais des Nations and the Council Chamber, where many important historical negotiations have taken place, with murals by José Maria. After the tour we went for a short boat trip on the Lake Geneva and saw the ‘Jet d'eau’ (fountain) which has a height of 140 metres.


The next day we visited CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, physicists and engineers are probing the fundamental structure of the universe. In the morning we visited the two exhibitions – Microcosm and the Universe of Particles.  Through spherical display cases and interactive information screens, the exhibitions gave us an insight into the world of fundamental particles.


During our post lunch session, we had a very interesting talk by a leading particle physicist on how the particles are made to collide together at close to the speed of light.  The process gives the physicists clues about how the particles interact and provides insights into the fundamental laws of nature.  On the 4 July 2012, the ATLAS and CMS experiments at CERN's Large Hadron Collider announced they had each observed a new particle in the mass region around 126 GeV. All the properties of this particle measured so far are consistent with those predicted for the Higgs Boson of the Standard Model. He enthusiastically talked about the CERN Neutrinos to Gran Sasso (CNGS) project that aims to unravel some of the mysteries surrounding neutrinos - light, neutral particles that hardly interact with matter.


Having left the lecture with a list of questions in our minds, such as: is it truly an elementary particle, or is it made of some smaller constituents; is it a portal to some new physics beyond the Standard Model, such as dark matter.  We were taken on another tour to see the very first particle accelerator. We were guided by one of the research scientists working on data analysis. He gave us an insight into the history of CERN and how CERN has come a long way since its foundation in 1954.  Through a video and detailed explanation of all the important dates and events, we learnt how the protons are produced and accelerated in Linear Accelerators (LINACs), then they are accelerated to higher energies in the Proton Synchrotron (PS) and the Super Proton Synchrotron (SPS), before entering the Large Hadron Collider (LHC); two 27 km tubes carry protons in opposite directions at speeds close to the speed of light (300,000,000 metres / second).


During the workshop session in one of the labs on the site, we worked independently in small groups (2-4 students) and built a cloud chamber.  We were guided through the experiment by S'Cool LAB tutors, who are specially-trained volunteers from among the CERN scientific community.


On our last day, we visited the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum, which provided us with a unique opportunity to enter into the history of humanitarian action across the globe.  With emotions, reflection and discovery we  walked through the three permanent exhibitions which allowed us to explore three major challenges in today’s world : Defending Human Dignity (Gringo Cardia, Brazil), Restoring Family Links, Reducing Natural Risks.  Going beyond the troubled periods of history or present-day conflict zones, these contemporary issues are of concern to each of us today and, in a wider perspective, will affect our common future for decades to come. The temporary exhibition -Teen Body Struggles takes a thoughtful look at teenage anorexia and eating disorders and explores our ideas about what constitutes the perfect female body. All in all, an unusual, moving approach – a mix of psychiatry and personal experience – reaches out.


In the late afternoon it was time to bid farewell to Geneva, a city superbly strung around the shores of Europe's largest Alpine lake and with 200-odd governmental and non-governmental international organisations, we made our way to the airport to return back to our families and Uxbridge High, where it all began!