Passport to the Big Bang

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Passport to the Big Bang
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© 2013 CERN
Passport to the Big Bang
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© 2013 CERN
Passport to the Big Bang
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© 2013 CERN

This cycle route follows the path of the world's largest particle accelerator.

This genius idea comes from the folks at CERN (well known for their genius of course) who spend their days firing particles around the Large Hadron Collider at the speed of light in an attempt to discover the meaning of the universe. Buried deep under the countryside of France and Switzerland, the LHC is a 27km ring of superconducting magnets which has kept CERN in the news since 2008, as much for its breakdowns as for its discoveries.

The Passport to the Big Bang is a cycling/hiking route which roughly follows the course of the LHC, meandering through the Franco-Swiss countryside for 54km (we did say roughly) and linking together various important CERN sites over 10 stages, each around 4km in length.

So you can start off by cycling from the ATLAS experiment in Meyrin, where particle collisions are recorded, to the CERN Control Centre from where the particle beams are operated. Continuing around the full circuit you’ll pass by CERN stations studying the Big Bang, analysing antimatter, examining neutrinos, accelerating and detecting particles and dealing with cryogenics. If you don’t know much about any of this, you’ll likely come away from this educational cycle ride a touch wiser, thanks to the ‘platforms’ at each of the 10 stages which describe the important research being carried out via the giant machine beneath your feet.

The route is free and open all year. Before you start, pick up the accompanying booklet available from tourist offices in the region which contains educational games and kid-friendly puzzles to complement your trip.

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