Tag Archives: Geneva

Visiting the CERN & Higgs boson

I visited the CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research), in Geneva, some months ago (I already wrote some posts about two of its museums: Patek Philippe & Science). The CERN and the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) have been widely in the media lately due to the detection of the Higgs boson.

The visit was very interesting despite of the fact of not being able to descend into the under ground to see the tunnels that appear in the media so often. In fact, as we were informed by the researcher who guided our visit, all those images are from archives as at the moment radiation down there is high due to the experiments and no one can get down, everything is controlled from above the ground, being this monitoring room the closest you can get (including researchers from ATLAS, pictured in the photos).

ATLAS monitoring room

ATLAS monitoring room

As I said, tours and explanations were given by researchers contributing some of their time to science outreach: I found that fantastic, even if to some eyes the discourse might seem dull. To complement the visit some videos were displayed and I collected some brochures, that I have scanned and can now share in the blog (you see how timely the visit was!). If you are interested in the brochures, click on the links and you can retrieve them from Google docs:

Guided visits are free of charge but limited in number and group size, thus you need to make a reservation prior to going there. Needless to say that I strongly recommend the visit.

By the way, I’ve seen in many places people criticizing the Higgs boson nick as “God Particle”. The explanation is simple and funny and can be found here.

The book in which this nick first appeared, “The God Particle: If the Universe Is the Answer, What Is the Question?” is a tremendous piece of divulgative physics by the physicist Leon Lederman. I loved it because of the anecdotes he explains of his experiments, the humour he uses and the passion he transmits. I recommended this book once five years ago in Toastmasters, got it borrowed by a member and returned it after a week: “Javier, it’s not *that* easy, funny and entertaining” (obviously the person didn’t read more than 5% of it). Nevertheless, I continue to recommend it, especially if you know some teenager thinking about studying Physics.

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Patek Philippe Caliber 89

I confess that I am not much into fashion, complements and luxury items, not even watches. I guess all the watches I have had in the last 20 years have been presents from my mother and I don’t remember specifically having asked for any of them.

“You never really own a Patek Philippe, you merely take care of it for the next generation”, this all I knew about Patek Philippe, because of seeing its advertisements in The Economist magazine.

When I visited Geneva some weeks ago, a friend living there suggested that we could visit the Patek Philippe Museum (10 CHF) as one of the activities for the weekend, and so we did.

In the museum you almost get exhausted with the so many luxurious watches and pieces of jewellery that you see, but some of them make it definitely worth the visit.

The Caliber 89 is a commemorative watch built to celebrate the 150 years of existence of the company. The small shrine displaying the watch and its features is breathtaking. It is said to be the most complicated watch ever built. You may see below the data about the watch provided by the museum.

Patek Philippe Caliber 89

Total development time 9 years: 5 years for research and development, and 4 years in manufacture.

  • Total diameter 89 mm.
  • Total thickness 41 mm
  • Total weight 1100 grams
  • Case 18 ct. Gold

Number of components 1728, including:

  • 184 wheels
  • 61 bridges
  • 332 screws
  • 415 pins
  • 68 springs
  • 429 mechanical parts
  • 126 jewels
  • 2 main dials
  • 24 hands
  • 8 display dials

Functions:

  • Hours, minutes and seconds of sidereal time
  • Time in a second time zone
  • Time of sunset and sunrise
  • Equation of time
  • Tourbillon regulator
  • Perpetual calendar
  • Century leap year correction
  • Date of the month
  • Century, decade and year
  • Day of the week
  • Months
  • Four-year cycle
  • Sun hand (season, equinox, solstice, zodiac)
  • Stars chart
  • Age and phases of the moon
  • Date of Easter
  • Chronograph
  • Split-seconds
  • 30 minute recorder
  • 12 hour recorder
  • Grande Sonnerie with carillon
  • Petite Sonnerie with carillon
  • Minute-repeater
  • Alarm
  • Going train up-and-down indication
  • Striking train up-and-down indication
  • Striking train stop work
  • Twin barrel differential winding
  • Four-way setting system
  • Winding-crown position indication

You may see below two videos explaining the watch and the process of building watches by Patek Philippe.

Finally, you may find this interesting post (in Spanish) about the Caliber 89, there I found the videos.

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Hazard and probabilities

Two weeks ago I visited Geneva for the first time. Among other things we visited a museum out of “our programme”, the History of Science Museum.

The ground floor of the museum had some tools that were in use in the past century in science research (microscopes, telescope, Earth globes…). In the upper floor there was a temporary exhibition about hazard, probability and games (“Les jeux sont faits! hasard et probabilités“). That one was great. Few times I had a better time in a museum than there. To name but a few of the games and tricks it had: rigged dice for the visitor to throw (and contribute to the experiment by noting down results), the game of the three-door game with a prize behind one of them (always change of choice when given the chance!), a small casino roulette (not only I didn’t lose any cash this time but finally I could throw the ball and say “rien ne va plus!”), a russian roulette, etc.

The interactive experiment that I enjoyed the most was one that challenged the visitor to guess the weight of a die. As a reference there were given three weights of 1, 3 and 5 kg to compare the die with (there was no scale). You had to enter your guess in a screen (my guess was 2.5 kg). Right afterwards you got information of previous visitors’ guesses: from 1 to 9.5kg (!), average weight guess of about 2.83kg… no one would tell you the solution. I don’t know how, but I hope I’ll get to know the solution to the quiz, even if it won’t be published until the exhibition finishes (January 2013).

Another feature that I loved of the museum was that in many of its rooms it had small brochures to be taken by the visitor as a complement of the visit. I took many of them to read them afterwards. It happens to me many times that after a couple of hours of slowly walking and reading lots of different interesting things in a museum I simply can’t take anymore of it. With these brochures you can make a lighter visit, knowing that the details you skip while at the museum can be read later on.

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I highly recommend the visit to the museum. The visit will not take much longer than an hour (unless you engage yourself in every single game), it only requires a small diversion from the walk by the lake and by the way the admission is free.

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