Collider

  • Museums
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© Jennie Hills
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© Nick Rochowski

Deep underground near the Swiss-French border is a tunnel the size of the Circle Line. This 27km ring of superconducting electromagnets is, at peak times, one of the hottest, busiest places in the universe. And – TfL take note – the subatomic particles which commute around it do so at 99.9999991 percent of the speed of light.

The Science Museum’s new exhibition has taken on a humongous challenge in the world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator. Question: how do you portray something as vast and scientifically precise as the Large Hadron Collider in a few meagre rooms of exhibition space? Answer: in true Brian Cox style – by using all the film, drama and sense of discovery you can muster to convey the sheer excitement and spectacle of science.

Actual exhibits are incidental to this exhibition. Its two star attractions – the Hadron Collider and the controversial subatomic Higgs boson particle which was recently discovered within it – are respectively too large and too small for the normal-sized human imagination to comprehend. Instead, you’re invited to step into a story of discovery.

It begins with a film scripted by Olivier-winning playwright Michael Wynne. In it, the scientists who operate the collider talk you through the emotional highs and lows (they slept under their desks! Became addicted to coffee! Got divorced!) of their search for what’s known to laymen as the ‘God particle’ and to those red-eyed physicists as the ‘Goddamn particle’. There’s even a funny cameo from the poster boy of British physics Cox – he’s there on work experience, making their coffee.

After their astounded wonderment has softened you up and made you really care about the Higgs boson (though not, sadly, understand WTF it actually is), it’s time for the spectacular. Room 2 is a stunning panoramic vision of what protons and neutrons being fired at almost lightspeed round a 27km magnetic doughnut might look like if they were a film designed by Da Vinci and directed by Spielberg. The real video artist behind it, Finn Ross, also designed the entrancing diagrammatic projections which helped West End smash ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time’ bring science and emotion together in award-winning union.

The remainder of the exhibition is a quiet, slightly creepy recreation of bits and pieces of the Cern laboratories in Switzerland, complete with dangling phone receivers, explanatory whiteboard diagrams, more cool projections and recently abandoned white coats and shoes. But the tactile, wraparound format is much more fun than a dry science lesson. I found myself understanding some basic concepts, like the structure of an atom, for the first time.

‘Collider’ succeeds tremendously: it’s a collision of theatre, science and state-of-the-art exhibitionism. That collision doesn’t necessarily produce the elusive comprehension of what the Higgs boson is and why, exactly, it advances our understanding of the universe. But there’s more than enough wonder and genuine information here to justify the entrance fee. It certainly gives the poor old Circle Line a lot to live up to. Caroline McGinn

 

Average User Rating

4 / 5

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Jaden B

Not sure what I expected but it starts with a terrible video (low budget, overdramatised, little factual information) and then you get to walk around and see the magnets, crystals, detectors, etc. Nicely laid out into an 'experience' as if you were walking through the tunnels and rooms of CERN but I was disappointed by the amount of actual amount of items from the collider - I believe it was 8 in total all of which are visible in the photos on this Time Out page with a few bits outside the paid exhibit. It didn't delve deep into the subject matter and glossed over the scientific results. OK for a 101 basic introductory course but not for those who are genuinely interested in the topic. Luckily got in for £5 during Late Nights.

MrTimChow

I was really disappointed with the exhibition as it promised you would 'step into the Collider'. Sure, the information is present, particularly if you don't know a whole lot about the LHC, but it could have been made so much more interactive. Instead you watch a video about the day the Higgs Boson particle was announced to the world. It was great to see parts of the Collider, but walking into a 'replica' office at CERN wasn't. Sadly, £10 seems overpriced for the experience.

Curated London

It’s time to rediscover a childhood favourite. The Science Museum has come on a long way in the last few years. The Shipping Galleries have gone, for a start (will anyone miss them?). In their place are new, much more relevant displays on cutting edge medicine, technology and engineering. This fresh approach is particularly evident in their epic exhibition, Collider, which brings the Large Hadron Collider to London.


Viewers ‘descend’ into a faithful recreation of the scientific research facility at CERN. Blending video, theatre and sound installation with real artefacts from CERN, Collider is a fascinating journey for adults and kids alike.


The designers took hundreds of high resolution photos on location at CERN to ensure the experience is as authentic as possible. Even graffiti has been reproduced (save a few age-appropriate edits), making this an authentic view of this significant technological institution. The tour concludes with an incredible, immersive film experience that shows what the Large Hadron Collider does, and a sense of the scale involved. 


Collider is engaging, interactive and informative, and sets the bar very high for museum curation.


For more art in plain English, visit http://www.curatedlondon.co.uk

Emily

My other half took me to this exhibition as a treat given my amateur interest in particle physics and I wasn't disappointed. There is an emphasis on the discovery of the Higgs Boson particle (obviously given the media coverage) but you also get a taste of what life is like working at the LHC, what the other detectors are up to and how the collider is put together and functions. Overall I thoroughly enjoyed this exhibit.

Kathy Adams

Already struggling to understand and comprehend what is in store at the museum. Sounds mind blowing and must go see

Jennifer

The introductory video is a bit superficial, but once you get to the exhibition itself, everything is explained quite clearly and a good amount of background information is available. I had only a vague of what the Collider does before I entered, and physics was my worst subject in school. Still, I found that I got a very good understanding of the Collider's workings, aims and successes throughout the visit. I would recommend this to anyone wishing to get a good overview of the World's Largest Experiment.

Hadi

I had very little knowledge of CERN but came out knowing much more. Compiled of various videos of the work done in the collider by actual scientists and their life down under.