If you want the structure of the universe explained or you’re still a bit hazy about isotope mass separators, just ask a nine-year-old from White City.
That’s because eight physicists of tomorrow from Wormholt Park Primary School have just returned from an eye-opening visit to CERN in Switzerland, the European laboratory for particle physics.
Led by teacher Natisha Virdee, the group flew to Geneva to spend a fascinating day at the centre which explores the universe – and were given a personal guided tour by Sir Tejinder Singh Virdee... who just happens to be her dad!
“We saw the main office of CERN, had lunch, then looked at the compact muon solenoid – the detector at the Large Hadron Collider,” recounted Natisha.
The pupils in the party had done their homework. They are now so well versed in particle physics that the nine and 10-year-olds are giving a presentation on what they learned to fellow students at the school in Bryony Road, White City.
Wearing hard hats and safety gear, the group descended 100m in a lift, and were lucky enough to witness some of the segments of the specialised equipment – which extends in a giant 27km ring – being moved for maintenance.
Prof Virdee, who has been one of the lead scientists at CERN for more than 30 years, showed the children around, then explained that the detector they were looking at was effectively a large camera taking an astonishing 40million pictures a second.
Among the question he fielded from the young visitors were: ‘What inspired you to become a scientist?’ and ‘Is there a lot of anti-matter still left in the universe?’
“They had a wonderful time on this once-in-a-lifetime experience,” added Natisha, who described the pictures of particles colliding as looking like ‘an explosion of fireworks’.
“When the possibility of this trip became reality, the children did a lot of research of their own, so they were able to ask really good questions.”
At least one of the Wormholt Park party now has serious plans to make physics a career.
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