Science Museum brings ‘world’s greatest experiment’ to public

14/11/2013

A new exhibition opening today at the Science Museum ‘transports’ visitors into the heart of one of the greatest scientific experiments of our time: the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). Collider provides a behind-the-scenes look at the CERN particle physics laboratory in Geneva in the first exhibition of its kind, offering visitors the closest experience possible to visiting the famous site itself.

The immersive exhibition blends theatre, video and sound art, to take visitors to the site of the LHC where they can explore areas including CERN’s Control Room and a huge underground detector cavern. Visitors can meet ‘virtual’ scientists and engineers from CERN, snoop around a researcher’s workbench, and examine objects up-close.

Visitors will follow the journey of particle beams as they are injected into the accelerator chain, ramped up to speed and steered around the 27km LHC tunnel. Moving along the tunnel, visitors are then immersed in the highlight of the exhibition – a wrap-around projection taking in both extremes of the scale of the LHC: from an enormous experiment cavern, to the very heart of a particle collision.

Through close collaboration with CERN, visitors can enjoy exclusive access to real LHC artefacts in the exhibition including a part of one of the large 15-metre magnets that steer the particle beam, and elements from each of the LHC’s four giant detectors. Visitors will also be able to follow the story of sub-atomic exploration through the Museum’s historic collections – on display will be J.J. Thomson’s apparatus which led to the discovery of the electron in 1897 and the accelerator used by Cockcroft and Walton to split the atom in 1932.

Alison Boyle, the Science Museum’s curator of modern physics, said: “I’ve been lucky enough to visit CERN and see inside the LHC – it’s an unforgettable experience. Particle physics is a challenging topic for an exhibition, but it’s also a compelling one. We want to give our visitors a tangible sense of the extraordinary ambitions of the LHC and the excitement of working on the project.”

The Science Museum has developed the exhibition with an award-winning creative team including Nissen Richards Studio, Olivier Award-winning playwright Michael Wynne (The Priory) and Olivier-winner video artist Finn Ross (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time).

Collider: step inside the world’s greatest experiment is open at the Science Museum until 6 May 2014.  Tickets are on sale now. Visit www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/collider for further details.

The £1m project was made possible by the support of Science & Technology Facilities Council; Winton Capital Management; exhibition benefactor The Embassy of Switzerland in the United Kingdom; with additional support from Advanced Oncotherapy plc, National Instruments, The Ogden Trust, and Collider exhibition Patrons and Supporters.

Notes to Editors

The Large Hadron Collider: facts and figures

  • The Large Hadron Collider is the largest, most sophisticated and most powerful scientific device ever made. It is being used by thousands of scientists and engineers around the world to learn more about the tiny building blocks that make up our Universe and the laws that govern their behaviour.
  • The precise circumference of the LHC accelerator is 26,659m (almost the same length as London Underground’s Circle Line), containing thousands of the world’s most powerful magnets.
  • Not only is the LHC the world’s largest particle accelerator, just one-eighth of its cryogenic distribution system would qualify as the world’s largest fridge.
  • When in operation, trillions of protons race around the LHC accelerator ring 11,245 times a second, travelling at 99.9999991% the speed of light.  Altogether some 600 million collisions take place every second.
  • When two beams of lead ions collide, they generate temperatures more than 100,000 times hotter than the heart of the Sun
  • By contrast, the 'cryogenic distribution system', which circulates superfluid helium around the accelerator ring, keeps the LHC at a super cool temperature of -271.3°C (1.9 K) – even colder than outer space!

Contact

For further information, please contact Julia Murray, Science Museum Press Office, 
on 020 7942 4328 or email julia.murray@sciencemuseum.ac.uk.

About the Science Museum

As the home of human ingenuity, the Science Museum’s world-class collection forms an enduring record of scientific, technological and medical achievements from across the globe. Welcoming over 3 million visitors a year, the Museum aims to make sense of the science that shapes our lives, inspiring visitors with iconic objects, award-winning exhibitions and incredible stories of scientific achievement.

About CERN

CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, 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. Cyprus, 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.

About STFC

The Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) is keeping the UK at the forefront of international science and tackling some of the most significant challenges facing society such as meeting our future energy needs, monitoring and understanding climate change, and global security.  The Council has a broad science portfolio and works with the academic and industrial communities to share its expertise in materials science, space and ground-based astronomy technologies, laser science, microelectronics, wafer scale manufacturing, particle and nuclear physics, alternative energy production, radio communications and radar.

STFC operates or hosts world class experimental facilities including in the UK the ISIS pulsed neutron source, the Central Laser Facility, and LOFAR, and is also the majority shareholder in Diamond Light Source Ltd.  It enables UK researchers to access leading international science facilities by funding membership of international bodies including European Laboratory for Particle Physics (CERN), the Institut Laue Langevin (ILL), European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) and the European Southern Observatory (ESO).  STFC is one of seven publicly-funded research councils.  It is an independent, non-departmental public body of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS).  Follow us on Twitter at @STFC_Matters. www.stfc.ac.uk

About Winton Capital Management

Winton Capital Management is a leading global alternative investment company and a world leader in financial mathematics and empirical scientific research into financial markets. The company, founded in 1997, now employs some 280 people, including 120 scientists, at research campuses in London, Oxford, Zurich and Hong Kong.

About the Embassy of Switzerland in the United Kingdom

Switzerland, founder member and host country of CERN and major contributor to the LHC project, is proud to be associated with the Collider exhibition. Swiss scientists, engineers and high-tech industry have played an important part in the design and construction of the Collider where our universities and research institutes are involved in the search for the Higgs particle and other LHC experiments. Switzerland is renowned for excellence and innovation across science and industry, attracting top talent from around the world. Clusters of leading high-tech companies around CERN and all across the country also contribute to an innovative and dynamic business environment. This provides overseas investors with great opportunities for branching out into Switzerland. For all these reasons, we are delighted to support both the Collider with its international community of researchers, and this exhibition at the Science Museum which brings the greatest experiment on earth to life.