The most important experience was actually simply to see how huge the Large Hadron Collider is. We totally didn’t expect the site of every experiment on the 27km ring to resemble an industrial town in its own right, scattered miles across a desert-like terrain with the Mont Blanc and the Jura mountains as the scenic back drop. It was a challenge to walk between the activities we had carefully planned in advance only to find out that some of the were full or required an hour of waiting in line. But the kids have withstood these challenges heroically and were rewarded with a few unforgettable impressions.
At the main entrance to CERN there is an impressive smooth curve of a memorial to the world’s most important equations and scientific discoveries:
And it turned out to be a that little path next to the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, not the Prime Meridian line. The 0° meridian is what the GPS uses for global navigation, the discrepancy results from the fact that the Prime Meridian was originally measured without taking it into consideration that the Earth isn’t a perfect smooth ball (if the measurements are made inside the UK, as it it was originally done, this does’t lead to as much discrepancy as when vaster areas are included).
The photos below show Simon playing with Breadth-first search and Dijkstra’s algorithms to find the most efficient path from S to E on a set of graphs. The two more complex graphs are weighed and undirected. To make it more fun, I suggest we pretend we travel from, say, Stockholm to Eindhoven and name all the intermediate stops as well, depending on their first letters. And the weights become ticket prices. Just to make it clear, it was I who needed to add this fun bit with the pretend play, Simon was perfectly happy with the abstract graphs (although he did enjoy my company doing this and my cranking up a joke every now and then regarding taking a detour to Eindhoven via South Africa).
“I have first built a maze, then I turned it into a graph and applied Dijkstra’s pathfinding algorithm!”
Simon learned this from the Computerphile channel. He later also attempted to solve the same maze using another pathfinding algorithm (A-Star).
And some more winter physics: trying to powders snow and ice:
Simon explains why our modern satellite navigation (the Global Positioning System or GPS) is a great experimental proof for Einstein’s relativity theory and what would happen if the software calculated your car’s location using Newtonian dynamics.
Simon learned about this from Ian Stewart’s awesome book “17 Equations that Changed the World”, Chapter 13 (Relativity).