To CERN with Unicorn College II
As you know from the previous article, we took a trip to CERN recently. The purpose of the trip obviously wasn’t only to see the beauties of Switzerland and France. The main goal was to visit CERN itself and find out a lot of intriguing and almost unbelievable facts about it. A student of Unicorn College, Jakub Kubaščík, shared his experience from the trip with us.
The day which everyone involved looked forward to so much came after over a year of preparations. The trip to CERN started on Sunday morning with the departure from our school. The bus journey proved that we were a great group. After a short while, the ice between the students and employees of Unicorn College and Unicorn Systems a.s. broke and entertainment began. Fortunately, as it took us fifteen hours to arrive at the F1 hotel (Genève Aéroport Ferney Voltaire) where we were accommodated.
The following morning, we set off straight to the CERN welcome centre where the whole complex was first introduced to us. The person to take care of us there was Ing. Daniel Valúch, PhD. who participated in the whole process from the early stages of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) project. Therefore, he knew various individual details and in a comprehensible and highly interesting lecture he introduced the complex problems that the scientists and technicians at CERN have to deal with. Beside the general introduction of the overall orientation and development at CERN, I was intrigued by the total number of personnel involved. The number amounts to over 17 thousand people with over 2,600 employees of CERN. Others are involved within over 25 various active experiments.
The interesting data kept coming and some of them are definitely worth mentioning here. CERN has the largest and purest vacuum in the world and also the coldest place of 1.8 kelvin (= -271.35°C). The voltage in the LHC achieves up to 7 TV (7,000,000,000,000 volts), which accelerates proton chains. A few of us could even visit the operation centre which was a surprisingly calm place where each detail gets under thorough scrutiny. Another shocking fact is that in an ideal operation, LHC is operated by only two people.
Then we moved further to the test centre where individual components undergo test cycles. This gave me an idea of the immense scale of LHC – we actually had to take a bus. Simply stating that the circumference of LHC amounts to 27km is one thing but to be there and watch how far everything is demonstrated the breath-taking size of the whole facility.
In the test centre, we dismantled and found out how accelerators actually work. The fact that CERN invented superconductors and the way of their mass production tends to be overlooked. It was fascinating to witness the technological progress on components from different times and listen to Mr. Valúch sharing his vast knowledge.
The idea of several million experiments justifies a highly effective and powerful computing centre. That’s where we headed next and the scale of it lies – yet again – beyond the capacity of an individual’s imagination. Despite several levels of noise and unnecessary data reduction, tens of GiB/s of data get generated every single moment. They need to be processed continuously and stored to magnetic tapes.
The computing centre splits into two parts: one in CERN and the other in Budapest. However, not even this suffices to the scientists’ requirements. They need their experiments processed as fast as possible. This requirement gave rise to a heterogeneous network incorporating various teams with their own systems and ways of work with data. At the time of our visit, almost 800 thousand cores worked actively within this interconnected colossus. At the end, I was astounded by the fact that CERN currently operates storage facility capable of storing up to 150 PB of data!
The whole CERN visit gave us a captivating demonstration of top technology and great scientists who endeavour beyond the boundaries of our present knowledge. We all felt thrilled while some of us didn’t even expect CERN to be so cool! The day ended with free programme – shopping, walking through beautiful Geneva or a party with friends.
On the third day – the day of our homecoming – we also visited the Col du Pillon Glacier 3000 view point which offers a panorama of part of the wonderful, live and clean nature of Switzerland (more in the previous article). All in all, it was a truly successful trip. CERN was fascinating, the weather ideal, the group fantastic, the teachers and the ladies from the study department superb.
I’d like to thank Mr. Václav Vacek this way for his help with the organization of the trip. Further, I’d like to thank Mr. Vladimír Kovář on behalf of all the participants for arranging and paying for the Red Monster bus with two professional drivers who did a great job and brought us safely there and back home.
I can’t wait for another trip with Unicorn College already!
a Unicorn College student
a Unicorn College student