Science

    The Deepest View: Tunnel Trips to the Large Hadron Collider

    A secret organisation – some facts and figures

    If predictions come true was a slogan promoting the DELPHI detector in the CERN brochures I collected in the 1990s when researching my novel 42. When I returned to CERN in March 2006, I had to fight off a creepy feeling. Of course we would no longer be confronted by the Large Electrons Positron Accelerator (LEP) I had described. That was closed down in 2000 (which truly wasn’t my fault). Instead, there would be the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), established in its predecessor’s 27km underground circular tunnel in order to cut costs.

    Maximilian Metzger, CERN’s secretary-general, welcomes us at the start of a tour of Microcosm, the visitors’ pavilion with its gambling den atmosphere generated by flashing computer animations. If he were to write a novel about CERN, explains the elegant manager in the pinstripe suit, he would depict it as a secret organisation, as a kind of Order of Illuminati. Here we pass over the sensationalist matter of the objectives of such an arcane set-up and concentrate on the purely formal aspect of the idea. This is one outcome of the endeavour to inform as many visitors as possible – above all politicians and bankers – about what CERN actually does and why this swallows up over a billion Swiss francs every year.

    Download SymbolThomas Lehr: The deepest view (pdf, 336 KB)

    Translation: Tim Nevill

    Thomas Lehr (b. 1957) is among the best-known German writers of his generation. CERN plays a major part in 42, his most recent novel. The book describes the fate of a group of visitors when time suddenly stands still after a mysterious accident at the research centre.