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CERN celebrates its anniversary with its neighbours

For CERN, the "Fête des Voisins" (neighbours' fair) lasted the whole weekend


Le CERN souffle ses bougies avec ses voisins

7600 people living near CERN visited some of the laboratory’s underground installations, including the immense CMS detector (Image: CERN)

For CERN, the Fête des Voisins lasted the whole weekend. CERN had invited residents of the local France-Geneva region to come and celebrate its 60th anniversary at a special event held on 24 and 25 May, and 8000 of them accepted the invitation to visit installations that many of them pass by every day. Guided tours were offered at three of the laboratory's underground sites: the CMS and LHCb detectors and the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at Point 4 of the ring. The lifts went up and down non-stop for the whole weekend, taking enthusiastic visitors underground to get behind the scenes of fundamental research. The caverns and the tunnel echoed to the oohs and aahs of people enthralled by the size and complexity of the installations so close to their homes.

At the CMS site in Cessy, a whole host of activities had also been organised above ground. Young and not-so-young visitors had fun shooting virtual protons, using Lego to get to grips with the components of matter, building complex machines out of Kapla blocks, testing their dexterity with robots or taking the helm of a huge crane that’s more commonly used to move the heavier components of CERN's installations.

Students from Cessy school, a neighbour of the CMS experiment, challenged visitors with the mysterious boxes that form part of the “Be a Physicist” project that they run in cooperation with CERN.

Stands devoted to radiation protection and superconductivity, cryogenics shows and precision measurement demonstrations all drew big crowds. Some of the visitors left messages before leaving, including this one: “What struck me the most was the idea that so many people from all around the world are working together towards a better understanding of the universe.”