UK celebrates 50 years of CERN


A celebratory review of the past, present and future of Europe's Particle Physics Laboratory

Yesterday, October 12th, the UK celebrated 50 years of partnership with CERN, Europe's Particle Physics Laboratory. In addition to world-leading research that has won Nobel prizes; CERN was the birthplace of the World Wide Web and has seen a host of other innovations that have led to advances in information technology, electronics, detector materials and instrumentation for healthcare.

The UK was a founder member of CERN in 1954 and continues to have a major involvement, taking part in scientific breakthroughs, developing industrial collaboration to exploit new technologies and helping to shape the future of particle physics research.

Professor Ian Halliday, CEO of the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council, which funds the UK subscription to CERN, said "Through CERN, the UK is engaged in the ultimate quest to find the answers to the biggest questions in the Universe - how was it formed? What is it made of? Why does it look the way it does today? Why do matter and energy interact the way they do?"

Speaking at the event to mark the anniversary, Lord Sainsbury, Minister for Science and Innovation, said: "The UK was one of the first to contribute to CERN and fifty years on we are still reaping the benefits of this world-leading facility for UK science and engineering.

"World-class scientific research underpins our economic prosperity and creates technologies that benefit us all, with major advancements in practically all fields of life from medical treatment to understanding the origins of the planet. "

At the same event, CERN DG Robert Aymar said, "Over the years, Britain's science, industry and culture have been enriched by membership of CERN, and I am sure that we can look forward to many more years of fruitful collaboration in the pursuit of knowledge."

UK highlights at CERN

  • During the LEP operation (Large Electron Positron Collider), UK scientists managed three of the four experiments. UK academics have also held the position of Director General CERN, held numerous senior staff positions and form 15% of all permanent staff at the laboratory. The latest facility, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is being project managed by Welshman Lyn Evans.
  • Invention of the World Wide Web by British Computer Scientist, Sir Tim Berners Lee
  • CERN's experimental work is supported by theorists, such as the University of Edinburgh's Professor Peter Higgs, who predicted the existence of the particle thought to give others mass - now known as the Higgs particle. Experiments at CERN will search for this particle to validate his theories.
  • "UK at CERN", a biannual event to promote UK industry to win contracts for work at CERN such as that won by Accles and Pollock for their precision laser cutting process.
  • Construction of detector elements for the Large Hadron Collider, eg Atlas involving twelve research groups across the UK.
  • Creating a new generation of computing infrastructure - GridPP is the UK contribution to CERN's Grid project.

CERN's future promises more developments in science and technology. In 2007, CERN's newest facility, the Large Hadron Collider will commence operations, searching for the elusive Higgs Boson - the particle thought to give others mass, and answering compelling questions about dark matter and dark energy, the existence of extra dimensions and the fundamental nature of matter, energy, space and time.

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
    Published on All rights reserved.