BMW R1200GSA vs Moto Guzzi Stelvio NTX

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Today we get to play Big Bang types and visit CERN, home of the Large Hadron Collider.

Friday 3/5/13

Today was our catch up with Michael and Roger, and our big visit to CERN. CERN is an acronym and translated into English means European Organisation for Nuclear Research. 

As seems to be the norm at the moment, it was raining again, with no sign of it letting up. I didn't really want to gear up and then have to have lunch and walk around the facility in all our riding gear. So after a few hassles, we got a taxi.

CERN is a very ordinary looking building considering what goes on there. The short version is that they have a twenty seven kilometre underground tunnel where they shoot particles at each other, and then they study what happens when the collide. This is supposed to replicate events immediately after the big bang. I know it's hard to believe  but it is just a tiny bit more complicated than my description. 

Most importantly, ALL the information and discoveries at CERN are for public consumption. Everyone has access. There are no secrets and everyone works together as a team. If you don't subscribe to this philosophy, then don't go there because you won't last long.

Here are two update headlines from the CERN website today:

First observations of short-lived pear shaped atomic nuclei.

Smallest lab-made drop of liquid might cause strange particle behaviour.

This mightn't sound like much, but to these guys it might just be that breakthrough that yields answers to years of theory evaluation and testing.

We met Michael and Roger at the sign in desk and after being told very seriously not to touch anything, to be careful where we walk, and to stay close to Michael, we entered the first chamber of the inner sanctum. The canteen.

Michael and Roger are two of the engineers charged with making sure all of the physicist's toys are kept working. We sat down to lunch and were joined by Hans Peter (sorry if that's spelled incorrectly) an award winning physicist, who also rides a moto. Between the three of them they did an admirable job of explaining what it is they actually do at CERN, albeit in a dumbed down, layman's sort of way. Thank you guys, and thank you to Mister Barrett, my high school science teacher. I actually understood a lot of what was explained. Having lunch with two engineers and a physicist who work in nuclear research isn't something we do every day. It was really special. But I do know what Penny from Big Bang feels like now.

What do Michael and Roger do? The build, maintain, repair, and modify things like these...

Part of the Linac 4 on the test stand.

I think I can see a problem here.

Low Energy Ion Ring. Think of it as a cooler for the the particle beam.

Left side - scientist humour.
Right side - work.

Roger, Suzanne, and Michael next to a small collider.
Note the Tangerine Dream T Shirt Roger is wearing. The man is all class. If you don't know who Tangeine Dream are, ask your parents.

They are serious. This is real glow in the dark stuff.

One of the pieces of equipment was running really hot. They cool things here with liquid nitrogen but it wasn't enough and the equipment had a very short lifespan. Roger sorted out a bit of gear to solve the problem. He wouldn't let me push a single button. Not one. Bastard! 

The toy that Roger built.

One of the old pieces of equipment outside.
Cue Dr Who theme.

Our guided tour was over way too soon. I think I could spend a month in here soaking it all in. It was fantastic. Thank you guys.

Suzanne and I then visited the microcosm in the visitor centre. It was very informative but the lunchtime chat worked a lot better for Suzanne and I. It was another big "Wow!" day.

So you would trust Michael and Roger with your Large Hadron Collider wouldn't you? Well read on, you might just change your mind.

We were invited to Michael's for a barbecue, and thinking we would have a few drinks, decided to go by taxi. What a drama. Being on the Swiss / French border, no taxi wanted to take us. Eventually Damien at the front desk, after lots of effort, (He even asked one of his mates if he could drive us to Michael's) found us a taxi. We were hoping that as Roger had to drive home he might give us a lift back to the hotel later. We ended up arriving at Michael's about an hour late (Sorry guys).

Michael's house is an old cheese factory with an incredible outlook over the valley. The rooms are huge with incredibly high ceilings, and there are lots of them. The house is undergoing a full renovation at the moment. I can't imagine how nice it will be when it's finished.

The view from near Michael's back door.

An extremely funny and enjoyable night then commenced. We started with a beer, much the same as most parties do.

Me, Michael, and Roger. Can you spell trouble?

There was much running around preparing things in the kitchen with Michael commanding the troops with precision and purpose.

The coals were taking a while to fire up so Roger was ordered to get them going. This is obviously a normal situation because a minute later Roger had a heat gun blasting into the coals on the barbecue. Boy did those little suckers fire up then. What a great idea, and one I'll be using in the future.

Roger and I in deep discussion. I think we were talking about women.

With a truckload of meat cooked, a couple of salads prepared, and a huge number of laughs had, we sat down to dinner.

Good food and great company.
They are all genuine smiles.

Then Suzanne threw in a left of centre question. "Guys, if you work at CERN, does that mean you don't believe there is a God?" That certainly stimulated the discussion and some very interesting viewpoints were put across.

Is there a Dog, oops, I mean God?

Roger. Obviously up to no good.

Then it was time for some serious moto discussion.

Michael saxing it up, and me hitting the drums.
(You couldn't call it playing).

Roger showing me how it's done. Boy, could he play.

All too soon it was time to call it a night. Suzanne and I were talking in Braille and it was time to go. 

The end of a great night.

Roger drove us back to the hotel. I had no idea Subaru Imprezas went so fast, especially around roundabouts. I think Suzanne might need a new car when we get home.

Thank you Michael and Roger. We had a sensational day, although I think your hospitality may delay our early morning departure tomorrow.

I'll finish off with a quote from Michael's email the following day: "Yesterday's evening was made out of that fabulous stuff which you can't measure..."

Too true Michael, too true. Thank you again.


  1. Hi Guys !!! How is it going, smashing write up, it made me laugh a lot , great stuff !!! Love to both

    1. Cheers Roger. It was a truly great night. Hopefully we can repeat it sometime.