27th January 2016

Below is an account written by Kin Fung Chan of Altrincham Grammar School about their recent school trip to Geneva in December 2015.

Day 1

Altrincham Grammar School took 20 of the acutest A- level Physics students to the mesmerizing city of Geneva to see the Large Hadron Collider at Cern. An early morning flight allowed us to visit the United Nations upon arrival in Geneva. Before entering the United Nations, stood a monumental sculpture; it was a 12-metre high structure, constructed of wood. The sculpture named the Broken Chair contained only three “and a bit” legs, to symbolize peace, re-install directly in front of the UN in 2007. Inside the United Nations Office, we were given a tour of several of the rooms including the famous Assembly Hall and Human Rights and Alliance of Civilizations Room which many of us recognized from the television. As we looked up towards the domed ceiling in the Human Rights and Alliance of Civilizations Room, we admired the great art work of Miquel Barcelo which gave the illusion of paint dripping, his astonishing feat required 100 tonnes of paint. 

In order to make the most of our trip we explored the city of Geneva at night. On our tour a memorable tradition we learned, involved the evolution of the Marmite de l'Escalade (chocolate pots) with a cook who tipped her cauldrons on the heads of soldiers in in 1602 as the Duke of Savoy invaded the city. 

Day 2

The purpose of our trip would be fulfilled on this day as we visited the world-renowned Large Hadron Collider (LHC). We first visited the CERN control centre, where we stretched our knowledge of the physics behind the remarkable facility. In a presentation we were shown some of the devices used on the LHC, my favourite being the collimator, used to focus the beam of hydrogen molecules with high strength magnets. Following this we briefly crossed the border into France to look at the SM18 test facilities where they test for instrumentation and superconducting magnets. One of the “cooler” tests used a very low temperature of 1.9K (-271.25 °C) to achieve a resistivity so small so that the material can be considered to be a superconductor.

On our last night in Geneva, we ventured ourselves, buying gifts for those at home and enjoying/trying the local cuisine.

Day 3

Our final day of Geneva allowed us to enjoy a scenic walk along Lake Geneva (Lac Léman), the picturesque view of the mountains left many of us fidgeting for our camera phones. Our final destination was the Musée d'Histoire des Sciences, although a small museum it is not to be judged by its appearance from the outside. Inside it contained many fascinating items including the world’s first battery and some of the first attempts at a capacitor. In comparison to today’s standards, it is incredible to see how humans have developed simple every-day components. From a student’s perspective, this has been an illuminating experience and one definitely not to forget.

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