On 29 May, together with my colleagues and a group of enthusiastic students from Bulgaria, we descended 100 metres underground to visit places where only CERN collaborators have access rights.
Andrey Marinov, Atanas Batinkov, Noemi Beni, Zoltan Szillasi and I participated in the very first virtual visit of the CMS cavern from Bulgaria, connecting to a school in the city of Targovishte using Google+ Hangouts On Air. Our scientific adventure began at 10:00 Bulgarian time with a presentation that introduced our virtual visitors to the laboratory, CMS, particle physics and of course what we do on a daily basis at CERN. In real time we answered many questions from the students about the CMS experiment and the detector’s construction.
This virtual visit included a special item: we sent a CMS greeting card to the school located 2000 km away, using the ionosphere as a reflector. For this we used ham radio equipment from F1VNO and an old-fashioned method called SSTV (Slow Synchronization TV) to send colour images over low bandwidth. By following all safety rules and with huge help from Maf Alidra and his team, we managed to install one G5RV half-size antenna on top of the buildings at Point 5. The greeting card was sent with less than 100 W of RF power into the antenna. Our greetings reached the students in their auditorium with the speed of light without using the internet, telephone lines or mail services: we demonstrated the power of fundamental science!
This special virtual visit was first conceptualised a few months ago when Andrey contacted a Bulgarian teacher, Miroslav Mirchev. Miroslav is a physics teacher who worked with several of his students to create an audio-visual model of the LHC, which shows how to implement the various phases of operation, from acceleration and collision of elementary particles to the production of new particles. Miroslav’s students were an extremely excited group who actively participated in the virtual visit.
They were joined by hundreds of curious viewers from all over Bulgaria who followed the live stream from the underground experimental cavern o CMS. The event website had 742 unique visitors on the day and the event itself became very popular via social media and local networks. It was covered by the national media in Bulgaria, including the Bulgarian National Radio , the Bulgarian National Television and the Bulgarian Ministry of Education and Science. At the time of writing, the video on YouTube has reached 375 views so far, with a total of 3,735 estimated minutes watched.
Zoya Mircheva, a teacher: “It was a very inspiring and interesting science experience. I've learned so many new facts. There are so many questions playing ping-pong in my head but there is one question I'm eager to find the answer soon – What is next, after the Higgs boson?”
Elena, a student: “Most interesting to me was the underground visit because this was a chance to touch the core of the science itself. The big magnets are really impressive. It felt like we are in a spaceship, so cosmic and infinite.”
In addition we sent CMS gifts (branded badges, keyholders, posters, brochures), hopefully we managed to inspire a few more young scientists-to-be. We will be thrilled if we manage to take more schools and universities from Bulgaria on virtual visits of the CMS cavern in the future.
We would like to thank Noemi and Zoltan for their help in making this event a reality.
* In English-speaking countries, the origin of the abbreviation was popularly changed to the phrase "seek you" or, later, when used in the CQD distress call, "Calling all distress". Transmitting the letters CQ on a particular radio frequency is an invitation for any operators listening on that frequency to respond. It is still widely used in amateur radio.
The views expressed in CMS blogs are personal views of the author and do not necessarily represent official views of the CMS collaboration.