Once-in-a-Lifetime Opportunity: TAU Supporters Wowed by CERN

A select group of TAU benefactors, leaders and scientists embarked on an intellectual odyssey, visiting the world's largest particle physics laboratory where the mysteries of the universe are being revealed – one tiny particle at a time.
13 March 2013
© 2013 CERN

Ever wanted to learn how the universe was created? Participants in Tel Aviv University’s exclusive VIP tour of CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, indulged their scientific curiosity in an adventure led by TAU scientists that took them 175 meters below the streets of Geneva and billions of years back in time.


The three-day mission, which allowed rare access to the largest scientific experiment in history, raised funds for doctoral fellowships at Tel Aviv University.


Universal science

The event kicked off with a festive dinner where the 18-strong group of donors, together with TAU officials and scientists, were introduced to the history of CERN by Dr. Lyn Evans, CERN’s Project Leader.


Early the next morning, the group made its way to the CERN campus to enjoy an all-day, private tour of the institution’s facilities. The highlight was a descent into the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), one of the most complex experimental facilities ever built and home of the recent discovery of the Higgs boson, or “God particle.” Built in collaboration with 10,000 scientists and engineers from over 100 countries, the LHC lies in a tunnel 27 kilometers (17 miles) in circumference and 175 meters (574 feet) below the ground.


The group also toured ATLAS, a particle physics experiment detector that investigates the head-on collisions of extraordinarily high energy protons. ATLAS is a multinational project that brings together 3,000 physicists – among them TAU’s team at CERN – in their bid to deepen understanding of the basic forces shaping our universe. During the tour, the group had the chance to see – up close and personal – the world’s largest superconducting magnet and the Worldwide LHC Computing Grid, a collaboration of over 170 computing centers in 36 countries that provides global computing resources to store, distribute and analyze the 25 million gigabytes of data generated each year by the LHC.  


Established in 1954, CERN employs almost 4,000 full- and part-time employees, and hosts 10,000 visiting scientists and engineers hailing from 608 universities and research facilities and spanning 113 nationalities.


Bringing science alive

TAU tour participants were also treated to fascinating lectures on topics that lie at the crossroads of science and philosophy given by leading scientists from the TAU team at CERN. Among them was Prof. Yaron Oz, Dean of TAU’s Raymond and Beverly Sackler Faculty of Exact Sciences and incumbent of the Yuval Neeman Chair in Physics, who accompanied the group throughout their visit. They couldn’t have asked for a more suitable guide – Oz is a theoretical physicist, a former staff member of the TH-Division at CERN, and an expert on elementary particle physics, quantum field theories and supersymmetry, among other fields.


© 2013 CERN

© 2013 CERN


Lectures were also given by two more scientists from TAU’s Raymond and Beverly Sackler School of Physics and Astronomy: Prof. Halina Abramowicz, a 15-year member of the TAU CERN team who is responsible for analyzing the massive amounts of data generated by the LHC; and Prof. Erez Etzion, a CERN Scientific Associate and the TAU representative in the ATLAS project.


Science and spirituality

The hard science featured in the tour was complemented by a soulful Kabbalat Shabbat experience. Services were held in Geneva’s Beit Yaakov Synagogue, followed by a Shabbat dinner at the home of TAU Friends Eliane and Philippe Meyer, engaged members of Geneva’s Jewish community. Mrs. Meyer – the daughter of TAU benefactors Norbert and Paulette Cymbalista who founded TAU’s Cymbalista Synagogue and Jewish Heritage Center – delivered a “drasha” linking the weekly Torah portion with the Big Bang and the God particle.


Another feature of the trip was a guided tour of the Martin Bodmer Foundation, one of the largest private libraries in the world. Participants toured a collection of some 160,000 items in 80 languages, among them hundreds of Western and oriental manuscripts printed before 1500, including a copy of the Gutenberg Bible, cuneiform tablets, Greek and Coptic papyri, testimonies of ancient civilizations and several minerals and fossils. The museum was designed by Mario Botta, architect of TAU’s Cymbalista Synagogue and Jewish Heritage Center.


The visit came to a close on a high note – literally – as participants had dinner at an authentic chalet in the heart of Geneva, where traditional Swiss cuisine was served to the sound of live yodeling.


TAU benefactor and governor Dame Shirley Porter, a participant in the visit, says, "The trip to CERN was very special. We not only enjoyed it but learned a lot as well. The academics that accompanied us and those we met during the tour made what had been a 'mystery' come alive. The entire group bonded very well and appreciated the effort that had gone into making this new venture so successful."


The new CERN Doctoral Fellowship Fund will support some of TAU’s 2,300 PhD students as they investigate the most exciting and original research directions in the sciences, humanities and arts. 


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