CERN is the European Laboratory for Particle Physics, one of the world's
most prestigious research centres. Its business is fundamental physics -
finding out what makes our universe work, where it came from and where it
is going. At CERN, some of the world's biggest and most complex machines
are used to study nature's tiniest building blocks, the fundamental
particles. By colliding these minute particles of matter physicists unravel
the basic laws of nature.
Synchrotron (PS), was built in the
1950s and was briefly the world's highest energy accelerator. The Super
Proton Synchrotron (SPS), built in the 1970s, was the scene of CERN's first
Nobel prize in the 1980s. The Large Electron-Positron collider (LEP) is
the Laboratory's current flagship, it came on stream in 1989. LEP is an
enormous machine. Built in a circular underground tunnel it is 27
kilometres around and weighs over 23 000 tonnes.
At work on the LEP accelerator.
The Laboratory provides state-of-the-art
scientific facilities for
researchers to use. These are accelerators that accelerate tiny particles
to a fraction under the speed of light and detectors like electronic eyes
that make the particles visible.
CERN's accelerator complex is built around three principal inter-dependent
accelerators. The oldest, the Proton
CERN is currently preparing to install a new accelerator inside the same
tunnel as LEP. Called the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), this machine will
start-up in 2005 giving the world's physicists a new tool to probe deeper
than ever into the heart of matter. Each of CERN's accelerators plays host
to a range of experiments run by collaborations of physicists from around
the world. These physicists build particle detectors at their home
institutes and bring them to CERN to record the results of particle
The L3 detector, one of four detectors at LEP.
physicists, use CERN's facilities. They represent
some 500 universities and over 80 nationalities.
CERN was founded in 1954 as one of Europe's
first joint ventures. Since
then it has become a shining example of international collaboration. From
the original 12 signatories of the CERN convention membership has grown to
20 Member States. The Laboratory sits astride the Franco-Swiss border west
of Geneva at the foot of the Jura mountains. Some 7000 scientists, over
half the world's particle