Sixty Years of CERN

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CERN Campus
The main CERN site in Switzerland

The world famous research organisation CERN is celebrating its sixtieth birthday this year, and emphasising its valuable contributions to science and collaboration around the world.

While many people might at least have a passing knowledge of the cutting-edge physics being conducted at this international centre, organisers are using the events this year to draw attention to the site’s history and contribution to international collaboration in research. CERN’s Director General Rolf Heuer:

CERN is a shining example of what can be achieved when people of different nationalities and cultures come together to pursue common goals…. By bringing together scientists from all parts of the world, CERN demonstrates how science unites nations and contributes to a better world

The list of countries contributing to CERN’s success is impressive, and includes some twenty one nations as members with several more as associates or observers, from an original pool of twelve which founded the organisation via a convention effected on the 29th September, 1954. Since then the research institution has not only completely reshaped the fundamentals of physics, it has also spun out useful technologies as well. Southampton’s own Web Science chair Sir Tim Berners-Lee developed the foundations for the World Wide Web while working for the group in 1989.

More recently CERN’s particle accelerator the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the most powerful ever built, gained prominence in the media when scientists working on data from collisions of microscopic super-fast particles saw some evidence of the elusive “Higgs boson”. This particle, long theorised but never yet identified, is suspected to be the subatomic culprit responsible for giving everything else mass and may yet explain some of the longstanding mysteries of physics; like why 90% of the mass in our Universe seems to be invisible “Dark Matter”.

The LHC begins operations again next year at record energy levels, and CERN will certainly be divulging yet more secrets of the fabric of our Universe for decades to come.

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