Updated: May 23
“Bang, Beam, Bump, Boson” or “Alice’s Dark Side” - Uncovering stories of particle physics.
I had just signed off for the day. On most days after work, I take a straight left from my office (which by the way is right next to CERN Courier) and take the exit from the CERN site. Today, a bit thoughtful, I decided to take a right instead – leading me to the library at CERN. I had just booked a flight to India for the Christmas break, to visit my family after over 2 years, and somehow, I thought the library would be a good alternative to get souvenirs while the CERN gift shop remains closed. I was right. I picked up my first copy of CERN Courier.
I picked up the March/April 2020 edition, the one I thought had the coolest cover. Not surprisingly, this edition was titled, Large Hadron Collider - 10 Years at the Energy Frontier.
Later, I realized, it does not only make a good gift for my parents but also makes a good travel read for me on a seven-hour journey, plus three hours of transit, minus the hassle. Reading a physical book has become so anonymous these days, that a) I had to specify it’s a physical book and b) It took me a moment to disconnect from the outer disturbances, literally and figuratively, as I boarded my flight and activated flight mode.
I thought I would skim through CERN Courier in a few minutes, like I’m guilty of reading most books these days, but to my surprise, I gave a thorough read to the first page — table of contents. I don’t know whether it was the abundance of time at hand or the alluring titles of the articles, I was hooked to CERN Courier right from the beginning. Reading through each line of the content section, in turn, helped me spot what piqued my interest the most from an ocean of knowledge. My personal interest stemmed from my background in Wissenschaftskommunikation und Bionik (Science Communication and Bionics), a combination of studies as exquisite as particle physics itself. Although my study content would be referred as biomimetics in English, as I pursued my studies in Germany, Bionics' German equivalent, Bionik, always adhered to a broader meaning — to develop engineering solutions from biological models. While Bionics required a solid understanding of physics, I still found myself sliding on the scale from being an expert to a non-expert while reading news from the high-energy physics community. While many times, CERN Courier didn’t indulge in explaining all the abbreviations that might be a common vocabulary among physicists, such as Linacs for linear accelerators, its style of capturing physics stories allures experts and non-experts alike. To name a few, “Bang, Beam, Bump, Boson”, “A labour of love” or “Alice’s Dark Side”, are stories that make sure to hold readers’ attention right from the title until the climax. But what fascinates me is the journey of uncovering these feature stories as if particle physicists are the hero(ines) of a movie to discover the undiscovered.
“A recipe for sustainable particle physics” by Véronique Boisvert and “Learning language by machine” by Rachel Bray besides this edition’s heartthrob, LHC Physics at 10, were my top picks. The article by Boisvert enlightened me with the reality of how it’s a long way to go sustainable in particle physics, but the journey has started. For instance, the SESAME light source is the first, self-sufficient accelerator infrastructure to be powered by renewable energy. The article by Bray showed me how many footsteps we’ve already taken to overcome what happens to be one of my biggest fright: learning languages. I spent four years learning German, only to find out that I will move to France and start from scratch. Former CMS user Mait Müntel’s inspiring story to move from CERN to finding Lingvist, an education company using artificial intelligence to accelerate language learning, is the story that proves how to turn obstacles into opportunities. I recall what Mait Müntel said, “It is an uphill struggle and very uncomfortable, but immensely satisfying when you reach the summit.”
I’ve always looked for ways to acquaint my friends and families with the exciting world of particle physics without sounding like an alien. For starters, following CERN’s social media and reading CERN Courier is a great recipe to taste all things physics.