Friday, August 24, 2007


CERN is the European Organization for Nuclear Research, but I guess when you say it in French the acronym makes more sense. Actually, the acronym doesn’t make a whole lot of sense anyway, since nobody really does any nuclear research there. CERN is the world’s largest particle physics lab, and the particles we’re talking about are much, much smaller than nuclei. It turns out that in physics going down in size means going up in energy, so what I do is sometimes called high energy physics.
Aerial view of CERN. Off to the right is where I live. Just
out of the picture to the left is the only McDonalds in miles.

CERN itself lies on the border between Switzerland and France, which you would think makes for a lot of paperwork, but I guess not. I usually work at one of the sites in France, but sometimes I go over the main office in Meyrin, Switzerland. The transition is so smooth that sometimes you forget you’re passing between two countries. In total, about 8,000 physicists of all ranks work on CERN experiments, which is about half of all particle physicists in the world.


Noah said...

What language do all the physicists speak when you're working together? Did you know french or german beforehand or by now?

marc2718 said...

The regional language is French, but at CERN all the physicists speak English. And, you know, thank god, because I know some twenty words of French. I do have a couple years of German, which turns out to be useless even in Geneva, but so far I've been getting by.

eXTReMe Tracker