Crowds flocked to CERN from far and wide for the Open Day. British students, Australian engineers living in Switzerland, Italians travelling in for the day were among the estimated 32 000 that strolled the lanes around the different sites; waited in long lines for visits, demonstrations, debates, theatre, and more; and filled the buses travelling to the ALICE, ATLAS, CMS, and LHCb sites.
"It's intriguing that you need a 27 kilometre track to collide these tiny particles you can't even see," Hunter Jakes, a Canadian engineer now working in Zurich, says while touring ATLAS with several friends from the same firm. "I never knew it was going to be so big. I just can't get over the size of it."
His friend and co-worker, Ula Plochocka, also Canadian, says for her favourite thing at CERN, it was a close call between ATLAS and the workshop where she built her own cosmic ray detector. "It worked, it was great, it was eye-opening," Plochocka said.
"I didn't realize how big everything would be, the scale of it," says William Wade of Freman College in Buntingford, England, while visiting the Antimatter Decelerator with his class now taking physics A-levels. Before the visit, their teacher had gone over the main areas of research at CERN. Wade says he learned that CERN scientists are "trying to find out what's in the smallest particles, and how the universe was created." His favourite was ATLAS. "I liked how technical it was, how smart the engineering looked."
Wade's classmate Jess Earp says she liked the diversity at CERN. "It's great to hear all the different languages: German, French, Spanish, Italian." She also says, "We love CERN, but you have to be a geek to enjoy it. You have to know what you're talking about."
Some non-geeks enjoyed their visits, too, however. "I was the worst student in physics," says Hervé Rigal of Geneva. "But now that I'm older I'm more interested in it." Though he hadn't heard of gravity waves before, he was interested in the Explorer display on detecting these waves. Rigal says that during his tour he learned that CERN was founded as a way of bringing European scientists together and to help create peace. "That's something I didn't know that's really interesting."