Broadening our horizons in Switzerland

An assortment of science enthusiasts, as well as their more politically minded counterparts, ventured to Geneva in Switzerland, to broaden their horizons.

After enjoying a view of the Alps from the plane, we made a long trek to our hotel in Gaillard, France, where we dropped off our belongings. Shortly after, we headed back to Geneva to have an authentic Swiss dinner – pots of molten cheese fondue, sausage, and potatoes, accompanied by an accordion player and an alpine horn! While enjoyment of the fragrant molten cheese wasn’t universal, the students still enjoyed themselves.

The next day, we trekked our way to the UN, where we were given special honours – tours of the Palais Des Nations on a day when they were normally closed for a large number of diplomatic meetings. The students got to learn about the peacekeeping history of the UN, as well as sit in the real hall where the voting takes place.

After enjoying a global perspective, we took a more focused look at particle physics, with a tour of CERN given by some of their most experienced engineers. The workings of the large hadron collider were explained, and the technical challenges unveiled. The largest machine in the world doesn’t always run perfectly, however, and the students were stunned to learn that a temperature difference of one degree, lasting about 2 seconds, resulted in 27000kg of metal vaporised, and a lengthy shutdown!

Perspectives widened, and brains tired, we finished the day with a pizza dinner together, accompanied by table football and science banter.

The next day the students got some free roam, enjoying the waterfront and doing some shopping. The students were prepared, but Geneva is one of the most expensive cities in the world (their minimum wage is about £17.70/hour!) so for most of us aside from a taste of chocolate and a coffee, the joy was in taking in the city.