Patiently waiting in the underground holding area, as a countdown ticks away until the ‘special internal meeting’ begins, my eye is drawn to the blackboard scribbles on the surrounding walls. ‘The most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible,’ said Albert Einstein – but in my art addled mind, my understanding of the science of the universe has been perpetually stuck on the ‘incomprehensible’. The doors open and we take our seats in a makeshift lecture theatre where we are welcomed to CERN, home to the famed Large Hadron Collider (LHC) and the subject of the Science Museum’s current exhibition, Collider.
Transported to the heart of one of the greatest scientific experiments of our time, Collider takes on the unenviable challenge of explaining particle physics to the everyman. With talk of accelerators and collisions, detectors and Higgs bosons being bandied around the press accompanied by excited looking scientists, I had big hopes that Collider may finally be able to help me find the truth in Einstein’s statement that the universe is indeed comprehensible…
Thankfully, the Science Museum has created an exhibition that is accessible for all, breaking down one of the most intricate and complex processes of modern physics into an immersive, multimedia experience for all brain capacities. Using video, theatre, sound art and striking visuals, Collider recreates CERN’s Geneva laboratory, a 27km (not real size) tunnel allowing visitors to experience life as a CERN employee and also one of the ill-fated particles injected into the collider itself.
With each process given its own workbench, complete with white boards of explanatory notes and diagrams – and ‘humorous’ doodles – and video footage animating graphs and sketches, before long what seemed unfathomable starts to make sense. Or at least more sense than it did when you first arrived. From clipboards of notes and real life photos, virtual scientists explaining their working day to real LHC artefacts such as one of the 15-metre magnets that steer the particle beam, this carefully pieced together exhibition ensures there is something for the most inquisitive minds to the mere meanderer. Armed with some mind-melting stats of the LHC’s process and a determination to rid science of its reputation as impenetrable, Collider gives a fascinating insight into just what CERN put those particles through in its search for the truth of the matter (gettit?)
And while I still have no idea what dark matter is, I can at least rest easy knowing that the team at CERN still aren’t quite sure either.
Collider is open until Monday 5 May 2014 at:
Tickets: Adults £10, Concessions £7.
Image © Science Museum