Cosmic vibes: CERN raves at summer festivals

This summer, CERN appeared at various festivals in the UK.


The inaugural Physics Pavilion at the 2016 WOMAD festival received over 3600 visitors. (Image: CERN)

This summer, CERN’s outreach efforts took a step in a completely new direction as the group participated at various festivals.

Following an invitation from the European Science Open Forum 2016 held in Manchester, UK, to be part of the Bluedot Festival, we produced an hour-long musical presentation with a physics theme. This featured the “Cosmic Piano”, created by Arturo Fernandez Tellez and Guillermo Tejeda Muñoz of ALICE, and a piece created from the sonification of LHC data by Domenico Vicinanza and Genevieve Williams, of Anglia Ruskin University.

On a much bigger scale, we (the outreach team) collaborated with the WOMAD Festival, to host its first World of Physics in the middle of the English countryside. The result was a three-day programme of talks including “What’s the Matter with Anti-Matter?” by Lars Joergensen, and activities such as a “Build Your Own Cloud Chamber” workshop led by Alex Brown.

Altogether, the pioneering Physics Pavilion, run in collaboration with the University of Lancaster, the IOP and the STFC and curated by Professor Roger Jones of the University of Lancaster, received over 3600 visitors, and the organisers ended up turning people away as the Pavilion reached capacity. It generated considerable media attention, including news items on the BBC, ITV and German public radio, and much enthusiastic feedback from festival-goers, many of whom asked for it to return in 2017.

One member of the public told the BBC: “Sometimes there's a feeling that science is a bit dry and separate from the rest of life. They're making it really accessible to us. It's interesting, understandable and quite beautiful.”

By going to the festivals, CERN’s outreach programme succeeded in engaging people who had never been interested in physics before. I knew we’d got something right when a little girl raised her hand at the end of one session and asked the speaker “How old were you when you knew you wanted to be a physicist?”

by Connie Potter