May 3rd, 2013
My experience as a Glass Explorer has been rather unique, and I’m really excited that I can finally tell you about it. To help set the context, you may want to watch the video below.
It all started with a rather unbelievable invitation – “Would you be willing to bring Glass to CERN and visit the Large Hadron Collider?” Of course I said yes (!) and over the next several weeks a plan emerged that would bring me and my family to Geneva, Switzerland.
As a physics teacher, visiting the world’s largest particle accelerator was a dream come true. As an online physics teacher, I knew that Glass could help me turn this into a once-in-a-lifetime learning opportunity for my students when they inevitably ask “what is a hadron collider“?
I received my Glass device a few days before the trip, and I quickly became acquainted with it – it turns out that traveling with Glass is actually super fun (I highly recommend it)!
A trip to CERN means a flight to Switzerland, which represented many firsts for our family – my wife’s first international flight, our first flight with our two kids, and my first time drinking Swiss Miss with the Swiss (again, I highly recommend it).
The day visiting the Large Hadron Collider was incredible. Starting early in the morning, we visited the CMS detector, ATLAS, and then the LHC tunnel. The two main detectors are housed in enormous caverns – the scale is truly difficult to comprehend. Looking at these incredible machines, I just couldn’t help but marvel at all the effort that went into designing, constructing, and running the enormously complex equipment.
The highlight of the visit, though, has to be our time spent in the Large Hadron Collider tunnel. Access to the tunnel is very restricted and even fewer people get to actually bike in the tunnel. In fact, less people have biked in the LHC tunnel than have climbed Mount Everest! Needless to say, I’m the first person who has ever taught a science class from inside the LHC tunnel. Seeing just a small portion of the whole loop, I was overwhelmed by the size of it all. The fact that I was able to share this experience with students, even answering their questions in real-time, is simply mind-blowing.
Throughout our visit to CERN, we were welcomed by many scientists and staff – they were all simply fantastic, and I am so grateful that they took the time to patiently answer my questions and show me around their impressive facility.
Ok, so what have I learned from this experience? Here are a few thoughts:
- Put yourself out there. Had I not applied to be a Glass Explorer, I never would have been invited to such a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
- Human ingenuity is awe-inspiring. During this adventure, I directly experienced two impressive technological achievements (although at very different scales). Both the LHC and Glass were made by teams of scientists and engineers working to achieve a seemingly-impossible goal. The human mind’s capacity for creativity is truly worthy of awe.
- It’s not about the technology. As an online teacher, I frequently say, “It’s not about the technology, but what you can do with it.” We have now reached an inflection point in the evolution of technology where each new advance means we see technology less and can do more with it. What a tremendously exciting time to be in education!