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Where do we come from? Where are we going? What are we made of? These are some of the most profound questions about the universe. At CERN, the tools exist to unravel some of these mysteries.
We spoke to Fabiola Gianotti, CERN’s first female Director-General, about what going beyond truly means. From an engineering standpoint it means inventing and developing technology that doesn’t even exist yet, technology that benefits the entire world. That is what truly drives us, too.
“What we’re doing here is going to have a huge impact on our understanding of nature at its deepest level. What we do here is to study the elementary particles, which are the objects that can be cut into smaller pieces, and they are the fundamental constituents of matter and the visible universe. And when I say matter, it also means the matter we are all made of as human beings,” said Gianotti.
CERN is home to the famous Large Hadron Collider, a particle accelerator that pushes protons or ions almost to the speed of light. It consists of 27-kilometer-long ring of superconducting magnets with a number of accelerating structures that boost the energy of the particles along the way. One of the aims is to explain the origin of mass, but it also seeks to help answer some of the questions left unanswered by the Standard Model of particle physics. Not that you can possibly compress CERN’s function into one sentence – or its contribution to humanity, which also encompasses the invention of the worldwide web.
“There are still many fascinating questions that await an answer. For instance, when we look at the sky, we see only five per cent of what is out there in the universe. Ninety-five per cent of our universe is made of forms of matter and energy that we don’t know, which is why we call them “dark” energy and matter. CERN has embraced and promoted open science. Whatever we do here is available to humanity for free. What makes a pioneer is curiosity. Going beyond creativity, a brain that is not really happy with what exists but wants to go beyond.”