Greetings from CERN
Issue 1

What if you found a portal to a parallel universe? What if you could slide into a thousand different worlds, where it’s the same year and you’re the same person
but everything else is different and what if you can’t find your way home? Such are the opening lines to the 90’s TV show Sliders, but they may as well have been the mantra for our field trip to CERN.

Magic Beans

My journey into the first parallel universe began when I decided to have a coffee at Gatwick airport at 6am after having abstained – for my own sanity – for approximately four years. The magic bean juice catapulted me into a state of consciousness in which my neurons were firing pretty much at the speed of light. Everything was kind of the same, but a little bit different. The only constant was that our tutor was reliably unreliable, missing his flight after being detained at the airport due to his saucy suggestion that security ‘might wanna check the lining’ of his bag.


After an insufficient night’s sleep, and aforementioned complications, we were just barely holding it together. That is, until our caffeineriddled brains were ushered into a three hour long, mind-warping lecture on understanding the ultimate structure of the universe – as far
as we could discern this is CERN’s main raison d’être. At times interesting, at times tedious, the talk would have been exponentially more bearable had it not been delivered by a man whose number one pleasure in life seemed to derive
from making unrelenting (t—∞) eye contact. You know when you hold someone’s gaze and you think it MUST stop soon but it just won’t and outwardly you’re playing it cool but inwardly you’re freaking out because it’s creepy as hell?
And then you look away for a minute and look back and they are still staring at you? Then you know what I’m talking about.


We had just about survived our mind-boggling first day of information deluge, trying not to be mentally inundated by talk of quantum physics, particle collisions, accelerators and detectors, when it transpired that, to reach our accommodation, we had to cross national borders, take a total of three buses that left about once every hour and for which we needed exact change in two different
currencies. Thank gawd for Uber! Turns out though, that you can only take Uber from la Suisse to la France and not the other way around, so even though we managed to get there in the evening, those of us who did not fancy an hour long walk at 8am the next morning were stranded and finally forced to take a £50 cab so as not to spend a second longer at the Hotel from Hell.

An Arm and a Leg

Luckily we had purchased a litre of fine Scotch and a supply of Jaegermeister at the airport because, as it turns out, everything in Switzerland is damn near unaffordable. After forking out an extortionate £10 for a plate of shrivelled
falafels and burnt quinoa for lunch at the CERN restaurant R1 (there are two restaurants on campus, efficiently named Restaurant 1 & Restaurant 2) we were forced to take matters into our own hands. Thankfully our hotel was located
across the street from an asphalt desert, featuring as its centerpiece a giant supermarket, housed in the likeness of a decaying cardboard box. The most economical investment at this point seemed to be Swiss chocolate and
three Euro bottles of French wine, the latter proving doubly effective for our
purposes – both cheap and potent, it allowed us to submerge both ourselves
and our subprime surroundings in a boozy haze.

The Antimatter Experiment 

The next day, we got to visit the Antimatter experiment. In my mind, antimatter would take up hardly any space, if any at all. I suppose my lethargic brain had settled on a rather half-baked concept, subconsciously and vaguely equating antimatter with ‘anti-space’;
Maybe something to do with Dark Matter or Black Holes...?! Instead, we arrived at a giant, purposebuilt container, labelled Antimatter Factory. Factory! F-A-C-T-O-R-Y! Turns out, they need a complex of industrial proportions to generate a billionth of a billionth of a gram of antihydrogen a year. To put this into
context, according to our antimatter physicist guide, this is just about enough antihydrogen to heat a cup of tea. I guess the Brits could brew a billion billion cups of tea a year if they got their hands on one gram of antihydrogen – or alternately, as we were told, build a preposterously potent nuclear weapon.

Lessons on Collisions

Physicists here at CERN accelerate particles at unfathomable speed in the hope that they will, upon collision, morph into previously undetected particles and answer some of life’s most metaphysical
questions by helping us understand the very stuff our universe is made of. As one physicist pointed out, the similarity between these particle experiments
and the randomized love-lottery we play
on Tinder is uncanny. Swipe, swipe, swipe, hope your finger will land on someone worth colliding with, someone who might be the answer to all your physical and metaphysical yearnings and questions. BOOM! Could this be a Higgs Boson,
or are you stuck with a boring old Photon? (In which case, discard that data and dive straight back in for a new collision!). Either way, in a town that’s all about accelerated collisions there seems
to be an acute shortage of Higgses and a profusion of Photons. Even though we adhered to meticulous and obsessive swiping methods, our efforts only culminated in one conversation with a man whose main interest in life was hummus.


Here I wave goodbye to you, dear readers, if not from the future, then from the parallel universe Geneva has proven to be. All that’s left for me here is to go out for some overpriced fondue, even
though, helllooooo I’m vegan. TTYS.


van Kitti

          Anna Schlimm, Illustrations by Rachel Sale