I am back again in Lausanne for my third secondment foreseen by the AMVA4NewPhysics network after one week spent in Italy to attend a Soft-Skill workshop (Giles and Fabricio already talked about it in the last posts on this blog) and to give a conference to some high school students about the Higgs boson discovery at CERN.
As pointed out by Tommaso in this post, this year some students are involved in a very interesting project that aims at combining together art and particle physics: they will have to create a work of art inspired to the Higgs boson, LHC, the detectors or, more in general, everything related to the world of particle physics. The creators of the best works will have the chance to spend one week at CERN to interact with the Italian researchers working there and to experience the real world of research.
In order to give a general overview about particle physics and some hints to the students to inspire them for their works, Tommaso, Cecilia and I gave a seminar at two schools of Venice (in particular, Tommaso and Cecilia spoke at Liceo Classico Foscarini, Tommaso and me at Liceo Scientifico Benedetti).
For me it was the first time I gave a seminar to high school students. I have to admit that it felt a bit strange at the beginning, since it was not so long ago that I left high school (yes, that is a way to convince myself that I im not getting that old… :P). Looking at those students reminded me of when my Liceo organized similar conferences, and my feelings were a mix of curiosity at the beginning and disappointment whenever the speakers made use of too specific terms, and this inevitably led to an incomplete comprehension of what was being said.
I therefore tried to remember my level of knowledge on particle physics when I was at high school, and I realized that almost every word of what Tommaso and I were about to say would have been completely new for them and for sure not so straightforward to understand. That is why I tried to be as clear as possible in explaining the structure of a particle detector, the Higgs boson peak coming from the invariant mass of 4 leptons, how LHC works. But, overall, I tried to give an idea of the enormous dimensions of these detectors and of the immense work hidden behind such experiments and such discoveries. We also used some spectacular images of the detectors to catch their attention and to surprise them, and some pictures of Fabiola Gianotti and Joe Incandela taken the day of the announcement of the Higgs boson discovery at CERN.
I do not expect they understood everything we said: there are so many concepts behind to digest. But at least I hope we managed to interest them and to raise a feeling of emotion and surprise. Among those students there could be future scientists, after all!