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European Organization for Nuclear Research

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European Organization for Nuclear Research

For the company with the ticker symbol CERN, see Cerner. For the rocket nozzle, see SERN.

Coordinates: 46°14′03″N 6°03′10″E / 46.23417°N 6.05278°E / 46.23417; 6.05278

European Organization
for Nuclear Research
Organisation européenne
pour la recherche nucléaire
File:CERN official logo.jpg

Member states
Formation 29 September 1954[1]
Headquarters Geneva, Switzerland
Membership 20 member states and 7 observers
Director General Rolf-Dieter Heuer

The European Organization for Nuclear Research (French: Organisation européenne pour la recherche nucléaire), known as CERN (/ˈsɜrn/; French pronunciation: ​[sɛʁn]; see History) is an international organization whose purpose is to operate the world's largest particle physics laboratory. Established in 1954, the organization is based in the northwest suburbs of Geneva on the Franco–Swiss border, (46°14′3″N 6°3′19″E / 46.23417°N 6.05528°E / 46.23417; 6.05528) and has 20 European member states.

The term CERN is also used to refer to the laboratory, which employs just under 2,400 full-time employees, 1,500 part-time employees, and hosts some 10,000 visiting scientists and engineers, representing 608 universities and research facilities and 113 nationalities.

CERN's main function is to provide the particle accelerators and other infrastructure needed for high-energy physics research - as a result, numerous experiments have been constructed at CERN following international collaborations. It is also the birthplace of the World Wide Web. The main site at Meyrin has a large computer centre containing powerful data-processing facilities, primarily for experimental-data analysis; because of the need to make these facilities available to researchers elsewhere, it has historically been a major wide area networking hub.


The convention establishing CERN was ratified on 29 September 1954 by 12 countries in Western Europe.[1] The acronym CERN originally stood in French for Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire (European Council for Nuclear Research), which was a provisional council for setting up the laboratory, established by 12 European governments in 1952. The acronym was retained for the new laboratory after the provisional council was dissolved, even though the name changed to the current Organisation Européenne pour la Recherche Nucléaire (European Organization for Nuclear Research) in 1954.[2] According to Lew Kowarski, a former director of CERN, when the name was changed, the acronym could have become the awkward OERN, and Heisenberg said that the acronym could "still be CERN even if the name is [not]".

Soon after the laboratory's establishment, its work went beyond the study of the atomic nucleus into higher-energy physics, which is concerned mainly with the study of interactions between particles. Therefore the laboratory operated by CERN is commonly referred to as the European laboratory for particle physics (Laboratoire européen pour la physique des particules) which better describes the research being performed at CERN.

Scientific achievements

Several important achievements in particle physics have been made during experiments at CERN. They include:

The 1984 Nobel Prize in physics was awarded to Carlo Rubbia and Simon van der Meer for the developments that led to the discoveries of the W and Z bosons. The 1992 Nobel Prize in physics was awarded to CERN staff researcher Georges Charpak "for his invention and development of particle detectors, in particular the multiwire proportional chamber."

Computer science

This NeXT Computer used by British scientist Sir Tim Berners-Lee at CERN became the first Web server.
This Cisco Systems router at CERN was probably one of the first IP routers deployed in Europe.

The World Wide Web began as a CERN project called ENQUIRE, initiated by Tim Berners-Lee in 1989 and Robert Cailliau in 1990.[10] Berners-Lee and Cailliau were jointly honoured by the Association for Computing Machinery in 1995 for their contributions to the development of the World Wide Web.

Based on the concept of World Wide Web Consortium's website as a historical document.

Prior to the Web's development, CERN had been a pioneer in the introduction of Internet technology, beginning in the early 1980s. A short history of this period can be found at[12]

More recently, CERN has become a centre for the development of grid computing, hosting projects including the Enabling Grids for E-sciencE (EGEE) and LHC Computing Grid. It also hosts the CERN Internet Exchange Point (CIXP), one of the two main internet exchange points in Switzerland.

Faster-than-light neutrino anomaly

Main article: Faster-than-light neutrino anomaly

On 22 September 2011, the OPERA Collaboration reported the detection of 17-GeV and 28-GeV muon neutrinos, sent 730 kilometers (454 miles) from CERN near Geneva, Switzerland to the Gran Sasso National Laboratory in Italy, traveling apparently faster than light by a factor of 2.48×10−5 (approximately 1 in 40,000), a statistic with 6.0-sigma significance.[13] However, in March 2012 it was reported by a new team of scientists for CERN, Icarus, that the previous experiment was most likely flawed and will be retested by scientists of both the Opera and Icarus teams;[14] on 16 March, CERN stated in a press release that the results were flawed due to an incorrectly connected GPS-synchronization cable.[15]

Particle accelerators

Current complex

CERN operates a network of six accelerators and a decelerator. Each machine in the chain increases the energy of particle beams before delivering them to experiments or to the next more powerful accelerator. Currently active machines are:

  • Two linear accelerators generate low energy particles. Linac2 accelerates protons to 50 MeV for injection into the Proton Synchrotron Booster (PSB), and Linac3 provides heavy ions at 4.2 MeV/u for injection into the Low Energy Ion Ring (LEIR).[16]
  • The Proton Synchrotron Booster increases the energy of particles generated by the proton linear accelerator before they are transferred to the other accelerators.
  • The Low Energy Ion Ring (LEIR) accelerates the ions from the ion linear accelerator, before transferring them to the Proton Synchrotron (PS). This accelerator was commissioned in 2005, after having been reconfigured from the previous Low Energy Antiproton Ring (LEAR).
  • The 28 GeV Proton Synchrotron (PS), built in 1959 and still operating as a feeder to the more powerful SPS.
  • The Super Proton Synchrotron (SPS), a circular accelerator with a diameter of 2 kilometres built in a tunnel, which started operation in 1976. It was designed to deliver an energy of 300 GeV and was gradually upgraded to 450 GeV. As well as having its own beamlines for fixed-target experiments (currently COMPASS and NA62), it has been operated as a protonantiproton collider (the SppS collider), and for accelerating high energy electrons and positrons which were injected into the Large Electron–Positron Collider (LEP). Since 2008, it has been used to inject protons and heavy ions into the Large Hadron Collider (LHC).
  • The On-Line Isotope Mass Separator (ISOLDE), which is used to study unstable nuclei. The radioactive ions are produced by the impact of protons at an energy of 1.0–1.4 GeV from the Proton Synchrotron Booster. It was first commissioned in 1967 and was rebuilt with major upgrades in 1974 and 1992.
  • REX-ISOLDE increases the charge states of ions coming from the ISOLDE targets, and accelerates them to a maximum energy of 3 MeV/u.
  • The Antiproton Decelerator (AD), which reduces the velocity of antiprotons to about 10% of the speed of light for research into antimatter.
  • The Compact Linear Collider Test Facility, which studies feasibility issues for the future normal conducting linear collider project.

Large Hadron Collider

Main article: Large Hadron Collider

Most of the activities at CERN are currently directed towards operating the new Large Hadron Collider (LHC), and the experiments for it. The LHC represents a large-scale, worldwide scientific cooperation project.

The LHC tunnel is located 100 metres underground, in the region between the Geneva International Airport and the nearby Jura mountains. It uses the 27 km circumference circular tunnel previously occupied by LEP which was closed down in November 2000. CERN's existing PS/SPS accelerator complexes will be used to pre-accelerate protons which will then be injected into the LHC.

Seven experiments (CMS, ATLAS, LHCb, MoEDAL[17] TOTEM, LHC-forward and ALICE) will run on the collider; each of them will study particle collisions from a different point of view, and with different technologies. Construction for these experiments required an extraordinary engineering effort. Just as an example, a special crane had to be rented from Belgium in order to lower pieces of the CMS detector into its underground cavern, since each piece weighed nearly 2,000 tons. The first of the approximately 5,000 magnets necessary for construction was lowered down a special shaft at 13:00 GMT on 7 March 2005.

This accelerator has begun to generate vast quantities of data, which CERN streams to laboratories around the world for distributed processing (making use of a specialised grid infrastructure, the LHC Computing Grid). In April 2005, a trial successfully streamed 600 MB/s to seven different sites across the world. If all the data generated by the LHC is to be analysed, then scientists must achieve 1,800 MB/s before 2008.

The initial particle beams were injected into the LHC August 2008.[18] The first attempt to circulate a beam through the entire LHC was at 8:28 GMT on 10 September 2008,[19] but the system failed because of a faulty magnet connection, and it was stopped for repairs on 19 September 2008.

The LHC resumed operation on Friday 20 November 2009 by successfully circulating two beams, each with an energy of 3.5 trillion electron volts. The challenge that the engineers then faced was to try to line up the two beams so that they smashed into each other. This is like "firing two needles across the Atlantic and getting them to hit each other" according to the LHC's main engineer Steve Myers, director for accelerators and technology at the Swiss laboratory.

At 1200 BST on Tuesday 30 March 2010 the LHC successfully smashed two proton particle beams travelling with 3.5 TeV (trillion electron volts) of energy, resulting in a 7 TeV event. However, this was just the start of the road toward the expected discovery of the Higgs boson. When the 7 TeV experimental period ended, the LHC revved up to 8 TeV (4 TeV acceleration in both directions) in March 2012, and soon began particle collisions at that rate. In early 2013 the LHC was shut down for a two-year maintenance period, to strengthen the huge magnets inside the accelerator. Eventually it will attempt to create 14 TeV events. In July 2012, CERN scientists announced the discovery of a new sub-atomic particle that could be the much sought after Higgs boson believed to be essential for formation of the Universe.[20]

Decommissioned accelerators


The smaller accelerators are on the main Meyrin site (also known as the West Area), which was originally built in Switzerland alongside the French border, but has been extended to span the border since 1965. The French side is under Swiss jurisdiction and there is no obvious border within the site, apart from a line of marker stones. There are six entrances to the Meyrin site:

  • A, in Switzerland, for all CERN personnel at specific times.
  • B, in Switzerland, for all CERN personnel at all times. Often referred to as the main entrance.
  • C, in Switzerland, for all CERN personnel at specific times.
  • D, in Switzerland, for goods reception at specific times.
  • E, in France, for French-resident CERN personnel at specific times. Controlled by customs personnel. Named "Porte Charles de Gaulle" in recognition of his role in the creation of CERN.[21]
  • Tunnel entrance, in France, for equipment transfer to and from CERN sites in France by personnel with a specific permit. This is the only permitted route for such transfers. Under the CERN treaty, no taxes are payable when such transfers are made. Controlled by customs personnel.

The SPS and LEP/LHC tunnels are almost entirely outside the main site, and are mostly buried under French farmland and invisible from the surface. However they have surface sites at various points around them, either as the location of buildings associated with experiments or other facilities needed to operate the colliders such as cryogenic plants and access shafts. The experiments are located at the same underground level as the tunnels at these sites.

Three of these experimental sites are in France, with ATLAS in Switzerland, although some of the ancillary cryogenic and access sites are in Switzerland. The largest of the experimental sites is the Prévessin site, also known as the North Area, which is the target station for non-collider experiments on the SPS accelerator. Other sites are the ones which were used for the UA1, UA2 and the LEP experiments (the latter which will be used for LHC experiments).

Outside of the LEP and LHC experiments, most are officially named and numbered after the site where they were located. For example, NA32 was an experiment looking at the production of charmed particles and located at the Prévessin (North Area) site while WA22 used the Big European Bubble Chamber (BEBC) at the Meyrin (West Area) site to examine neutrino interactions. The UA1 and UA2 experiments were considered to be in the Underground Area, i.e. situated underground at sites on the SPS accelerator.

Most of the roads on the CERN campus are named after famous physicists, e.g.- Richard Feynman, Niels Bohr, Albert Einstein.

Participation and funding

Member states and budget

Since its foundation by 12 members in 1954, CERN regularly accepted new members. All new members have remained in the organisation continuously since their accession, except Spain and Yugoslavia. Spain first joined CERN in 1961, withdrew in 1969, and rejoined in 1983. Yugoslavia was a founding member of CERN but left in 1961. Initially only West Germany was a (founding) member of CERN. Of the twenty members, 18 are European Union member states. Switzerland and Norway are not.

Member state Status since Contr.
(mill.CHF for 2012)
(% for 2012)
 Belgium[note 1] 29 September 1954 30.83 2.62%
 Denmark[note 1] 29 September 1954 19.86 1.69%
 France[note 1] 29 September 1954 169.82 14.46%
 Germany[note 1] 29 September 1954 219.10 18.65%
 Greece[note 1] 29 September 1954 17.75 1.51%
 Italy[note 1] 29 September 1954 120.62 10.27%
 Netherlands[note 1] 29 September 1954 49.71 4.23%
 Norway[note 1] 29 September 1954 26.85 2.29%
 Sweden[note 1] 29 September 1954 29.81 2.54%
  Switzerland[note 1] 29 September 1954 55.70 4.74%
 United Kingdom[note 1] 29 September 1954 146.96 12.51%
 Austria[note 2] 1 June 1959 23.70 2.02%
 Bulgaria[note 2] 11 March 1999 3.08 0.26%
 Czech Republic[note 2] 1 July 1993 10.60 0.90%
 Finland[note 2] 1 January 1991 15.01 1.28%
 Hungary[note 2] 1 July 1992 6.85 0.58%
 Portugal[note 2] 1 January 1986 14.49 1.23%
 Poland[note 2] 1 July 1991 31.36 2.67%
 Slovakia[note 2] 1 July 1993 5.20 0.44%
 Spain[note 2] 1 January 1983 87.73 7.47%
Candidate, Associate Members
 Romania[note 3] 5.02 0.43%
 Israel[note 3] 3.63 0.31%
 Serbia[note 3] %
 Cyprus[note 3] [25] %
 Ukraine[note 3] [26] %
zaTotal Members, Candidates and Associates 1,092.68[27] 93.01%
zb European Union[28] 1 July 1985[29] 17.3 1.47%
zdOther income 64.8 5.52%
zeTotal CERN 1,174.78[28] 100.0%


Associate Members, Candidates (note that dates are initial signature, not of ratification):

  • became a candidate for accession to CERN in 2010 and will become a member in 2015.[30]
  • became a candidate for accession to CERN on 19 December 2011, associate member on 10 January 2012.[31]
  • became an associate member in 2011, with a decision to be made on its full membership in 2013.[32]
  • 's name has been unanimously approved by CERN council for the process of achieving associate membership,at a meeting on September 17 2013, which could potentially lead to Pakistan’s associate membership by the end of 2014.
  • became an associate member in 2012.[33]
  • became an associate member on 3 October 2013.[34]

Four countries applying for membership have all formally confirmed their wish to become members.[35]

  • since 7 January 1991, Non-Member State status
  • since 1961, Observer State status

International relations

  CERN member states: 20 c.
  Accession in progress: 4 c.
  Declared intent to join: 2 c.
  Observers: 4 c. + EU, Turkey
  Cooperation agreement: 35 c. + Slovenia, Cyprus
  Scientific contacts: 19 c.

Five countries have observer status:[36]

  • – since 1961
  • – since 1993
  • – since 1995
  • – since 1997
  • – since 2002

Also observers are the following international organizations:

Non-Member States (with dates of Co-operation Agreements) currently involved in CERN programmes are:

  • – 11 March 1992
  • – 25 March 1994
  • – 1 November 1991
  • – 3 December 1997
  • – 28 June 1994
  • – 19 February 1990 & October 2006
  • – 11 October 1996
  • – 10 October 1991
  • – 12 July 1991, 14 August 1997 & 17 February 2004
  • – 15 May 1993
  • – 18 July 1991
  • – 14 February 2006
  • – 16 January 2006
  • – 23 April 1996
  • – 11 October 1996
  • – 11 September 1996
  • – 5 July 2001
  • - 12 June 2003.[37] MoU with Jordan and SESAME, in preparation of a cooperation agreement signed in 2004.[38]
  • – 9 November 2004
  • – 27 April 2009[39]
  • – 20 February 1998
  • – 12 October 1990
  • – 14 April 1997
  • – 4 December 2003
  • – 1 November 1994.
  • – 23 February 1993
  • – 1 October 1991. Since 12 December 2008 it has the Status of Candidate for Accession to Membership.
  • – 21 January 2006
  • – 7 January 1991
  • – 4 July 1992
  • – 25 October 2006.
  • – 18 January 2006
  • – 2 April 1993

International research institutions, such as CERN, can aid in science diplomacy.[40]

Public exhibits

Facilities at CERN open to the public include:

In popular culture

  • CERN's Large Hadron Collider is the subject of a (scientifically accurate) rap video starring Katherine McAlpine with some of the facility's staff.[44][45]
  • CERN is depicted in an episode of South Park (Season 13, Episode 6) called "Pinewood Derby". Randy Marsh, the father of one of the main characters, breaks into the "Hadron Particle Super Collider in Switzerland" and steals a "superconducting bending magnet created for use in tests with particle acceleration" to use in his son Stan's Pinewood Derby racer. Randy breaks into CERN dressed in disguise as Princess Leia from the Star Wars saga. The break-in is captured on surveillance tape which is then broadcast on the news.[46]
  • John Titor, an online bulletin board poster claiming to be a time traveler, referenced CERN in his predictions, claiming it would create miniature black holes and discover time travel.
  • CERN is depicted in the visual novel (later adapted into an anime series) Steins;Gate under the name SERN. In the video game and anime series, SERN is a shadowy organization that has been researching time travel and attempts to use it to restructure and control the world in the dystopian near future. The game references the John Titor legend mentioned above.
  • In Dan Brown's mystery-thriller novel Angels & Demons, a canister of antimatter is stolen from CERN.[47]
  • In the popular children's series The 39 Clues, CERN is said to be an Ekaterina stronghold hiding the clue hydrogen.
  • In Robert J. Sawyer's science fiction novel Flashforward, at CERN, the Large Hadron Collider accelerator is performing a run to search for the Higgs boson when the entire human race sees themselves twenty-one years and six months in the future.
  • In season 3 episode 15 of the popular TV sitcom The Big Bang Theory titled "The Large Hadron Collision", Leonard and Rajesh travel to CERN to attend a conference and see the LHC.
  • The 2012 student film Decay, which centers around the idea of the Large Hadron Collider transforming people into zombies, was filmed on location in CERN's maintenance tunnels.[48]
  • The Compact Muon Solenoid at CERN was used as the basis for the Megadeth's Super Collider album cover.
  • In Denpa Kyoushi, the main character is scouted by CERN -Aij
  • In Super Lovers, Haruko (Ren's mother) worked at CERN, and Ren was taught by CERN professors -Aij

Associated institutions

See also

Science portal


External links

  • CERN Courier – International journal of high-energy physics
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