Highlights from past and future physics

A two-day symposium was held at CERN on 3 and 4 December in celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the Proton Synchrotron and the twentieth anniversary of LEP. The symposium, entitled “From the Proton Synchrotron to the Large Hadron Collider- 50 Years of Nobel Memories in High-Energy Physics”, included a series of seminars reflecting on the past fifty years in particle physics and an exhibition highlighting CERN’s research over this period.


Lyn Evans, LHC project leader, addressing the audience gathered in the Main Auditorium during the symposium that celebrated the 50 years of the PS and the 20 years of LEP.

 The events were well attended on both days. Thursday’s reception, to which the Director-General invited everyone working at CERN, attracted over 1200 people. The seminars drew about 500 people to the Main Auditorium and the Council Chamber each day, with at least as many on-line attendees. The symposium speakers, including thirteen Nobel laureates, discussed particle physics past, present and future.

As Professor Martinus Veltman noted in his opening remarks, each speaker provided a unique perspective on the development of particle physics. He observed, “It is very interesting to hear how these histories vary from person to person.” Symposium topics covered developments in accelerator and particle physics, highlighted historical moments and put forward challenges for the present and future.

View of the exhibition in the “Pas perdus” area.

The speakers’ stories were especially powerful in conveying the persistence necessary for scientific discovery. The laureates acknowledged that mistakes were made but ultimately overcome. Enthusiasm, curiosity and a love of learning drove each of them forward to make discoveries.

Event organizer Isabel Bejar Alonso explained, “The symposium reminded us that the reason we are here is not only to make great machines, which we are celebrating along with the people who made them, but also to make experiments that demonstrate theories, to make physics.”

The exhibitions, which transformed the Main Building and Restaurant No. 1, provided an elegant counterpart to the seminars, documenting discoveries at the PS, the ISR, the SPS and LEP, while looking forward to a new era with the LHC. Floor tracks tracing the path of particles from the LINAC through to the LHC guide the visitor through the different areas.

Emma Sanders, exhibition organizer, explained that “the exhibition is designed for the most challenging of audiences—people at CERN, many of whom actually contributed to the discoveries themselves.” The exhibits are accompanied by texts giving the personal accounts of those who actually worked on the projects. Sanders noted that the CERN Courier and the commemorative book “Infinitely CERN” had been particularly useful in putting the exhibition together.

The exhibition is also the result of the hard work of many people, including technical groups responsible for electricity, safety, painting and transport. The exhibition was designed and assembled in the space of four weeks. The area in Restaurant No. 1 , used daily by CERN, was transformed within a few hours.
Juliette Davenne, who worked with the technical teams and assisted in developing the ISR and LHC areas, praised the teamwork that made the event possible. “It was a real pleasure to work with this team on the project.”

Feedback on the exhibition has been overwhelmingly positive. As one visitor wrote in the Livre d’Or, “We enjoyed going through the panels, looking backwards… to look forwards!” Another praised the atmosphere, “CERN has come alive with science over the last week.”

The exhibition can be visited in Buildings 61, 500 and 501 (Restaurant No. 1) until the end of December and visitors are encouraged to record their responses in the Livre d’Or outside the Main Auditorium. Videos of the symposium seminars are available online and a DVD will be available before Christmas.



Watch the video interviews to Nobels:

by Daisy Yuhas