Microcosm 2.011

Microcosm, CERN's first exhibition centre, will soon be upgraded. While keeping its present character and many of its nice features, the use of new cutting-edge exhibition technologies together with an area for student experiments and physics demonstrations will make version 2.011 even more attractive to the general public and school classes.


Layout of the new Microcosm 2.011 exhibition.

New Year, and a new look for Microcosm! CERN's popular exhibition centre will undergo a transformation that will see, among other things, the installation of a new area dedicated to modern physics experiments for school groups. “Microcosm will keep its main features and character,” says Rolf Landua, Head of the Education Group, which is in charge of the project. “While some parts will be replaced by more modern exhibition technologies and contemporary scenography, others will be moved to allow a better visitor flow and make room for the brand-new school lab and public demonstration area."

The new version will extend Microcosm's mission further. Together with the "Universe of Particles" exhibition, it will continue to complement the standard visits of the CERN site. It will also give individual and professional visitors - often guided by CERN staff - a possibility to get a quick overview of CERN. But the main new feature will be the school lab with 10 work places, where groups of up to 30 students at a time will be able to carry out some of the key experiments of modern physics. They will be under the supervision of their teachers, supported by a CERN instructor.

The demand for such a 'hands-on' facility at CERN comes directly from the 4000 teachers who have followed the CERN teacher programmes over recent years. "We asked them what they missed when they visited CERN with their school classes," says Landua. "The overwhelming majority answered that they would love to have an additional half-day filled with practical activities related to modern physics. So we decided to go ahead and fulfil their wish."

The set of experiments to be installed has yet to be finalized, but it will certainly include the Rutherford, Thomson and 'natural radioactivity' experiments that are already present in Microcosm. Students will also be able to study the photoelectric effect, atomic spectra, atomic collisions (Franck-Hertz) and electron diffraction. Furthermore, it will be possible to detect cosmic rays by constructing a low-cost cloud chamber, by operating a cosmic ray scintillation counter or by using the Medi-Pix chip. Another option would be the use of a high-temperature superconductor to demonstrate superconductivity and the Meissner effect.

The educational area will replace the present 'movie theatre' and the exhibition on the history of computing, which will become part of a dedicated visit point in Building 513. Finally, the mock-up of the LHC tunnel will be moved to a different location inside Microcosm. The new Microcosm should be ready by the end of the year, representing a nice 2011 Christmas present from CERN to its visitors.

by CERN Bulletin