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Collision course

Particle detectors resembling telescopes the size of cathedrals, buried 100 metres beneath Geneva, hold the key to 21st-century physics and the origin of the universe - and British teachers are getting a sneak preview.

The four detectors, contained in a 27km network of tunnels under Switzerland and France, will enable scientists to study the particles created when the Large Hadron Collider crashes two beams of protons together at nearly the speed of light.

The experiment at the European Particle Physics Laboratory near Geneva will search out new physics, examine the difference between matter and antimatter, and allow the study of quark gluon plasma, the particle soup that existed in the first fraction of a second after the Big Bang.

About 80 UK science teachers will get a chance to view the system close-up before the tunnels are sealed off in August in preparation for the collider's November switch-on. A delegation of 14 travelled out this month and will have the opportunity to network and share ideas with their European counterparts.

Lizzie Weiser, a physics teacher at Hills Road sixth form college in Cambridge, said: "I am tremendously excited, especially about visiting the Atlas detector. I have a poster of it in my classroom and keep telling my students that I am going to stand right there.

"I hope to increase my own knowledge and confidence in the subject, so that I can transmit some of that enthusiasm, the sheer excitement of it, to my students. Having been where it all happens, and having seen it for myself, will make this much easier."

Places are available for UK teachers on a summer school visit to the laboratory in July.

* www.lhc.ac.uk

* http:teachers.web.cern.chteachers

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