Inspiring the next generation of atom smashers

09/05/2012

The Science Museum is working with CERN in Geneva to create a temporary exhibition that will allow visitors to experience what it feels like to operate the biggest scientific experiment on the planet, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC).

New details of the exhibit, which is scheduled for Autumn 2013 and will run for six months, were revealed last night by Prof Rolf-Dieter Heuer, Director General of CERN at the Science Museum’s annual dinner, a major event attended by leaders of science, industry, politics and the media. Guests included Prof Stephen Hawking, David Willetts and Janet Street-Porter.

“The Science Museum is among the world’s leading centres for public engagement with science,” said Heuer, “and I’m very pleased for CERN to be working with the museum on this important new touring exhibition about the LHC. CERN is enjoying unprecedented public attention, and initiatives like this help turn that into the sustained public engagement with science that is so vital in our science dominated age.”

In the Large Hadron Collider, a giant particle collider, scientists and engineers work at the extremes of temperature, vacuum and energy to recreate conditions not seen since just after the Big Bang some 13.7 billion years ago.

The museum will be collaborating with theatre and digital producers to create an immersive experience so visitors can participate in the greatest intellectual adventure on the planet.

The exhibition, which is being devised to tour museums worldwide, will provide visitors with access to members of the vast team of 10,000 scientists and engineers who work with CERN to reveal what motivates them, said Heuer.

The exhibition will give visitors a close-up look at remarkable examples of CERN engineering, from the bottle of hydrogen gas that feeds the great machine to the vast dipole magnets. There will be many historic objects from the museum's world leading collections, including JJ Thomson's apparatus which led to the discovery of the electron, and the accelerator Cockcroft and Walton used to first split the atom.

At the dinner, attended by the great and the good of the UK science establishment, pieces of the great machine (beam screens) were used as 'table centrepiece' objects.

“The Science Museum is privileged to be holding this exhibition. It is a unique opportunity to inspire young people and to remind all our audiences that Britain is a major player in the frontiers of physics,” commented Ian Blatchford, Director of the museum.

Interactive exhibits, which rely on push-buttons and displays, were part of the South Kensington experience from the 1850s; our Children’s Gallery of 1931 was revolutionary, as Henry Lyons made a radical departure from the didactic ‘technical education’ approach of science museums to put what he termed ‘the ordinary visitor’ at the heart of the museum experience..

The museum had the first Professor of the Public Understanding of Science (with Imperial College), and with its sister museums, the Science Museum Group has the world’s most important collection of iconic scientific objects.

The project team for the CERN exhibit includes Harry Cliff, the first Science Museum Fellow of Modern Science, who divides his time between the museum and the University of Cambridge team working on the LHCb experiment at CERN.

Notes to Editors

Science Museum
The Science Museum annual dinner was attended by over 400 of the worlds leading Scientists, Nobel Prize winners, Industrialists, Politicians and members of the media. They included Dame Susan Greenfield, Sir Peter Knight, Sir Michael Pepper, Sir Tim Hunt, Sir Ralph Kohn, Hermann Hauser, Andreas Goss, Sir Adrian Smith, Alexander Vladimirovich Yakovenko, Charles Jencks, Mariella Frostrup and John Sessions (confirm at event)

The Science Museum’s world class collections form an enduring record of scientific, technological and medical change from the past 400 years. The physics collections range from the early 20th century and include models illustrating the Rutherford-Bohr theory of the atom, made by William Bragg, c. 1911 and paraffin absorbers used by James Chadwick to capture neutrons in 1930s. More recent acquisitions are a prototype superconducting cavity from CERN's Large Electron Positron, LEP collider (the forerunner to the LHC) in the 1980s and the Central Tracking Detector from the ZEUS experiment at the DESY particle accelerator in Hamburg, 1990s

Aiming to be the best place in the world for people to enjoy science, the Science Museum makes sense of the science that shapes our lives, sparking curiosity, releasing creativity and changing the future by engaging people of all generations and backgrounds in science, engineering, medicine, technology, design and enterprise.

Visitor Information
Science Museum, Exhibition Road, London, SW7 2DD Open daily 10.00 to 18.00, except 24-26 December www.sciencemuseum.org.uk / 0870 870 4868

CERN
CERN is the world's leading laboratory for particle physics. It has its headquarters in Geneva. At present, its Member States are Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Romania is a Candidate for Accession. Israel and Serbia are Associate Members in the pre-stage to Membership. India, Japan, the Russian Federation, the United States of America, Turkey, the European Commission and UNESCO have Observer status.