“Universe of Particles” opens in the Globe

CERN’s brand new permanent exhibition provides a high-tech experience with virtual interactive stations and pieces of actual detectors to intrigue the general public about some of the world’s most sophisticated physics tools and experiments.


Universe of Particles exhibition will open on 1 July in the Globe of Science and Technology.

Upon entering the dark interior of the Globe, one has a sense of emerging into a portal to the outer universe. Large projections that fill the walls and a 6 m large diameter circle screen in the middle of the ground where space swirls with stars and planets, as well as particle collisions from the LHC experiments. Questions such as where do we come from? What are the laws of Nature? Why did antimatter and matter not destroy each other just after the Big Bang? Will we find particles that make up the mysterious dark matter or the Higgs particle? are linked to the research being done at the LHC.

Visitors are invited to explore the unique spherical stations spread around the exhibit focusing on four main themes – Why does CERN collide particles? How do we accelerate particles? (LHC), How do we detect particles? (detectors), and the diversity of CERN (worldwide collaboration, computing grid and World Wide Web, spinoff technologies, history and educational aspects). Touch screen balls allow visitors to explore ALICE, ATLAS, CMS and LHCb through virtual tours that give a sense of scale for each and explain how they work. They also show short films of detector installations.

Object balls contain exhibits related to each theme, such as a hydrogen bottle – the proton source for all of the particle accelerators at CERN, a replica of the first cyclotron made by Nobel Laureate, Ernest Lawrence in 1931, an antimatter trap and crystals from electromagnetic calorimeter detectors, to name a few. Meanwhile, visitors can observe particles colliding every few seconds on the center circular screen. These particle collisions are reconstructed particle tracks taken from real data of the four large LHC experiments.

The Universe of Particles exhibit has been funded by Rolex and designed by Atelier Brueckner.
All of the programming for the interactive features is done by IART and the CERN coordinators are Bernard Pellequer, manager of the Globe and Rolf Landua, head of CERN’s Education, Visits and Exhibitions Group. “One of the highlights is the LHC table, a touch-screen device that displays an interactive map of the LHC”, explained Landua. Touching various places allows the visitor to peak underground 100 m to see where the experiments are located and how they work and by touching the play button CERN’s accelerator complex comes to life showing the path of the protons from the source to the LHC. “Thanks to this new exhibition, the Globe will play an even greater role in CERN’s communication to the general public and will be the starting point for CERN visits,” said Landua.

Members of CERN Council and Management visit the exhibition (17 June 2010)

The exhibit will be officially opened to the general public on 1 July; however, a special pre-opening will be held on 29 and 30 June for CERN staff and users to experience this new display. Visits are free with opening hours from 10:00 until 17:00, Mondays to Saturdays.

Watch the video that presents the exhibition:

by Carolyn Lee