Tuesday, June 7, 2011

From Heidi to Nuclear Physics

Around Europe in many different cultures - Part 5 Switzerland

Famous for its scenic countryside and children’s story Heidi, Switzerland is a unique country with four national languages depending on the region (http://www.myswitzerland.com/). The three main official languages are German (spoken by 63.7% of the population), French (20.4%), and Italian (6.5%). The fourth official language, Romansch, is only spoken by 0.5% of its population. Do you know that Geneva – with UN Head Quarter and the biggest nuclear physics research facility in world – is not the capital city of Switzerland? The capital city is Bern.

Among the many faces of Switzerland, the romantic set of Heidi’s childhood created by Johanna Spyri in 1880 attracted many visitors. The “Heidi Village” in Maienfeld will transport you into the era when the children's story was written. The Heidi Trail leads visitors through the idyllic landscape in the Alps.

The other face of Switzerland is its international role. Geneva is the headquarters of many of UN’s agencies as well as the Red Cross – and of course, it is the place where the treaties regarding the treatment of wartime non-combatants and prisoners of war, Geneva Conventions, was signed.

CERN's Globe of Science and Innovation exhibition centre and the nearby Meyrin site are seen from the air. The surface buildings which provide access and support for the ATLAS experiment, one of four experiments on the LHC, can also be seen on the right.
Photo by CERN

Geneva also hosts the largest nuclear physics research facility, CERN (stands for Conseil EuropĂ©en pour la Recherche NuclĂ©aire or European Organisation for Nuclear Research). When you browse the internet, remember that the World Wide Web was born in CERN in 1989. Home of the Large Hadron Colider (LHC), its business is fundamental physics – finding out what the Universe is made of and how it works. A visit to CERN is free. You can book a guided tour in advance, or just turn out to see the many different exhibitions including the Universe of Particules that exhibition takes you on a journey deep into the world of particles and back to the Big Bang. For detailed information about opening hours, guided tours and how to get there, see http://outreach.web.cern.ch/outreach/visites/index.html. One important thing to remember is to bring your passport with a valid Switzerland and France or Schengen visa as the tour will include crossing the border.
Moving the calorimeter on side A of the ATLAS cavern, January 2011
photo by CERN

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