• The Laboratory takes shape

    The Laboratory takes shape

    Part 2 of the CERN70 feature series Franco Bonaudi, one of the pioneers of CERN’s accelerators, looks back at the Laboratory’s early years, during which everything had yet to be invented

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  • A first discovery

    A first discovery

    A few months after CERN’s first accelerator, the Synchrocyclotron (SC), was commissioned, a first experiment was launched. At the time, weak interactions were among the most hotly debated topics in high-energy physics. Scientists were puzzled, for example, about the decay of the particle known as the pion. The particle was known to decay into two…

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  • The dark side of the muon

    The dark side of the muon

    In the 1950s, the muon was still a complete enigma. Physicists could not yet say with certainty whether it was simply a much heavier electron (with 200 times the mass) or whether it belonged to another species of particle. Acting on an idea of Leon Lederman, CERN launched the “g-2” experiment in 1959, aimed at…

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  • Tracing particles

    Tracing particles

    In the 1960s and 1970s, two techniques for accurately recording the tracks of invisible particles dominated experimental high-energy physics, the bubble chamber and the spark chamber. The pictures produced – simple photographs – were then examined for interesting tracks by specially trained personnel, the “scanners”. The bubble chamber programme at CERN started in 1959, when…

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  • Cutting-edge computing

    Cutting-edge computing

    CERN’s first computer, a huge vacuum-tube Ferranti Mercury, was installed in 1958. It represented the first stage in the evolution of digital computing at CERN. The next big step came in 1965, when the first supercomputer arrived: a CDC 6600 designed by computer pioneer Seymour Cray. This transistorised sub-microsecond machine was the first real “number…

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  • The nucleus as a laboratory

    The nucleus as a laboratory

    When the Isotope Separator On-Line (ISOLDE) began operations at the Synchrocyclotron (SC) in 1967, it was unique in the world. Like other laboratories, a proton beam from an accelerator was directed onto a target to create rare radioactive isotopes of various elements on the periodic table. But ISOLDE used an innovative technique to solve the…

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  • An electronic revolution

    An electronic revolution

    Georges Charpak received the 1992 Nobel Prize in Physics for his 1968 invention of the multi-wire proportional chamber, which revolutionised particle detection

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  • The world’s first hadron collider

    The world’s first hadron collider

    On 27 January 1971, the world’s first collisions between two beams of protons occurred in CERN’s Intersecting Storage Rings (ISR). By the late 1950s, physicists knew that a huge gain in collision energy would become possible by colliding proton beams head on, rather than using a single beam and a stationary target. However, the price…

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  • The heart of CERN’s accelerator chain

    The heart of CERN’s accelerator chain

    In 1957, CERN staff moved into the new buildings on the Meyrin site in Geneva, and the rooms were rapidly filled with equipment for the Proton Synchrotron (PS). By the end of July 1959, assembly of the PS – the accelerator is more than 600 metres in circumference! – was completed and, on 16 September,…

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  • Happy hundredth Herwig!

    Happy hundredth Herwig!

    CERN celebrates its 70th anniversary and birthday of Herwig Schopper, Director General of CERN from 1981 to 1988, in the same year! On Friday 1 March, Herwig Schopper celebrates his 100th birhtday. He has made landmark contributions to nuclear and particle physics and to related technologies. In his early career, he played a key role…

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