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For the company with the ticker symbol CERN, see Cerner. For the rocket nozzle, see SERN.

Coordinates: 46°14′03″N 6°03′10″E

European Organization
for Nuclear Research
Organisation européenne
pour la recherche nucléaire
CERN member states .svg

Member states
Formation September 29, 1954; 61 years ago[1]
Headquarters Meyrin, Canton of Geneva,Switzerland
Official languages
English and French
Council President
Sijbrand de Jong[2]
Fabiola Gianotti

The European Organization for Nuclear Research (French: Organisation européenne pour la recherche nucléaire), known asCERN (/ˈsɜːrn/; French pronunciation: [sɛʁn]; derived from the name ”Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire”; see History), is aEuropean research organization that operates the largest particle physics laboratory in the world. Established in 1954, the organization is based in a northwest suburb of Geneva on the Franco–Swiss border, (46°14′3″N 6°3′19″E) and has 21 member states.[3] Israel is the only non-European country granted full membership.[4]

The term CERN is also used to refer to the laboratory, which in 2013 had 2,513 staff members, and hosted some 12,313 fellows, associates, apprentices as well as visiting scientists and engineers[5] representing 608 universities and research facilities.[6]

CERN’s main function is to provide the particle accelerators and other infrastructure needed for high-energy physics research – as a result, numerous experiments have been constructed at CERN as a result of international collaborations.

CERN is also the birthplace of the World Wide Web. The main site at Meyrin has a large computer facility containing powerful data processing facilities, primarily for experimental-data analysis; because of the need to make these facilities available to researchers elsewhere, it has historically been a major wide area network hub.


The 12 founding member states of CERN in 1954[1] (map borders from 1954-1990)

The convention establishing CERN was ratified on 29 September 1954 by 12 countries in Western Europe.[1] The acronym CERN originally represented the French words for Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire (European Council for Nuclear Research), which was a provisional council for building the laboratory, established by 12 European governments in 1952. The acronym was retained for the new laboratory after the provisional council was dissolved, even though the name changed to the current Organisation Européenne pour la Recherche Nucléaire (European Organization for Nuclear Research) in 1954.[7] According to Lew Kowarski, a former director of CERN, when the name was changed, the acronym could have become the awkward OERN, and Heisenberg said that the acronym could ”still be CERN even if the name is [not]”.[citation needed]

CERN’s first president was Sir Benjamin Lockspeiser. Edoardo Amaldi was the general secretary of CERN at its early stages when operations were still provisional, while the first Director-General (1954) was Felix Bloch.[8]

The laboratory was originally devoted to study of atomic nuclei, but was soon applied to higher-energy physics, concerned mainly with the study of interactions between subatomic particles. Therefore, the laboratory operated by CERN is commonly referred to as theEuropean laboratory for particle physics (Laboratoire européen pour la physique des particules), which better describes the research being performed there.

Scientific achievements[edit]

Several important achievements in particle physics have been made through experiments at CERN. They include:

The 1984 Nobel Prize for Physics was awarded to Carlo Rubbia and Simon van der Meer for the developments that resulted in the discoveries of the W and Z bosons. The 1992 Nobel Prize for Physics was awarded to CERN staff researcher Georges Charpak ”for his invention and development of particle detectors, in particular the multiwire proportional chamber.”

Computer science[edit]

This NeXT Computer used by British scientistSir Tim Berners-Lee at CERN became the first Web server.
This Cisco Systems router at CERN was one of the first IP routersdeployed in Europe.
Plate placed next to the office where Tim Berners-Lee and Robert Cailliau began theWorld Wide Web

The World Wide Web began as a CERN project namedENQUIRE, initiated by Tim Berners-Lee in 1989 and Robert Cailliau in 1990.[16] Berners-Lee and Cailliau were jointly honoured by the Association for Computing Machinery in 1995 for their contributions to the development of the World Wide Web.

Based on the concept of hypertext, the project was intended to facilitate sharing of information among researchers. The first website was activated in 1991. On 30 April 1993, CERN announced that the World Wide Web would be free to anyone. A copy[17] of the original first webpage, created by Berners-Lee, is still published on the World Wide Web Consortium‘s website as a historical document.

Prior to the Web’s development, CERN had pioneered the introduction of Internet technology, beginning in the early 1980s. A short history of this period can be found at[18]

More recently, CERN has become a facility for the development of grid computing, hosting projects including the Enabling Grids for E-sciencE (EGEE) and LHC Computing Grid. It also hosts the CERN Internet Exchange Point (CIXP), one of the two main internet exchange points in Switzerland.

Faster-than-light neutrino anomaly[edit]

On 22 September 2011, the OPERA Collaboration reported the detection of 17 GeV and 28 GeV muon neutrinos, sent 730 kilometers (450 miles) from CERN near Geneva,Switzerland to the Gran Sasso National Laboratory in Italy, traveling apparently faster than light by a factor of 2.48×10−5 (approximately 1 in 40,000), a statistic with 6.0-sigma significance.[19] However, in March 2012 it was reported by a new team of scientists for CERN, Icarus, that the previous experiment was most likely flawed and will be retested by scientists of both the Opera and Icarus teams;[20] on 16 March, CERN stated in a press release that the results were flawed due to an incorrectly connected GPS-synchronization cable.[21]

Particle accelerators[edit]

Current complex[edit]

Map of the CERN accelerator complex

Map of the Large Hadron Collidertogether with the Super Proton Synchrotron at CERN

CERN operates a network of six accelerators and a decelerator. Each machine in the chain increases the energy of particle beams before delivering them to experiments or to the next more powerful accelerator. Currently active machines are:

  • Two linear accelerators generate low energy particles. Linac2 accelerates protons to 50 MeV for injection into the Proton Synchrotron Booster (PSB), and Linac3 provides heavy ions at 4.2 MeV/u for injection into the Low Energy Ion Ring (LEIR).[22]
  • The Proton Synchrotron Booster increases the energy of particles generated by the proton linear accelerator before they are transferred to the other accelerators.
  • The Low Energy Ion Ring (LEIR) accelerates the ions from the ion linear accelerator, before transferring them to theProton Synchrotron (PS). This accelerator was commissioned in 2005, after having been reconfigured from the previousLow Energy Antiproton Ring (LEAR).
  • The 28 GeV Proton Synchrotron (PS), built during 1954—1959 and still operating as a feeder to the more powerful SPS.
  • The Super Proton Synchrotron (SPS), a circular accelerator with a diameter of 2 kilometres built in a tunnel, which started operation in 1976. It was designed to deliver an energy of 300 GeV and was gradually upgraded to 450 GeV. As well as having its own beamlines for fixed-target experiments (currently COMPASS and NA62), it has been operated as a protonantiproton collider (the SppS collider), and for accelerating high energy electrons and positrons which were injected into the Large Electron–Positron Collider (LEP). Since 2008, it has been used to inject protons and heavy ions into the Large Hadron Collider (LHC).
  • The On-Line Isotope Mass Separator (ISOLDE), which is used to study unstable nuclei. The radioactive ions are produced by the impact of protons at an energy of 1.0–1.4 GeV from the Proton Synchrotron Booster. It was first commissioned in 1967 and was rebuilt with major upgrades in 1974 and 1992.
  • The Antiproton Decelerator (AD), which reduces the velocity of antiprotons to about 10% of the speed of light for research ofantimatter.
  • The Compact Linear Collider Test Facility, which studies feasibility for the future normal conducting linear collider project.

Large Hadron Collider[edit]

Main article: Large Hadron Collider

Many activities at CERN currently involve operating the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) and the experiments for it. The LHC represents a large-scale, worldwide scientific cooperation project.

Construction of the CMSdetector for LHC at CERN

The LHC tunnel is located 100 metres underground, in the region between the Geneva International Airport and the nearby Jura mountains. It uses the 27 km circumference circular tunnel previously occupied by the Large Electron-Positron Collider (LEP) which was shut down in November 2000. CERN’s existing PS/SPS accelerator complexes will be used to pre-accelerate protons which will then be injected into the LHC.

Seven experiments (CMS, ATLAS, LHCb, MoEDAL,[23] TOTEM, LHC-forward and ALICE) will be performed on the collider; each of them will study particle collisions from a different aspect, and with different technologies. Construction for these experiments required an extraordinary engineering effort. For example, a special crane was rented from Belgium to lower pieces of the CMS detector into its underground cavern, since each piece weighed nearly 2,000 tons. The first of the approximately 5,000 magnets necessary for construction was lowered down a special shaft at 13:00 GMT on 7 March 2005.

The LHC has begun to generate vast quantities of data, which CERN streams to laboratories around the world for distributed processing (making use of a specialized grid infrastructure, the LHC Computing Grid). During April 2005, a trial successfully streamed 600 MB/s to seven different sites across the world.

The initial particle beams were injected into the LHC August 2008.[24] The first attempt to circulate a beam through the entire LHC was at 8:28 GMT on 10 September 2008,[25] but the system failed because of a faulty magnet connection, and it was stopped for repairs on 19 September 2008.

The LHC resumed operation on 20 November 2009 by successfully circulating two beams, each with an energy of 3.5 teraelectronvolts. The challenge for the engineers was then to try to line up the two beams so that they smashed into each other. This is like ”firing two needles across the Atlantic and getting them to hit each other” according to the LHC’s main engineer Steve Myers, director for accelerators and technology at the Swiss laboratory.

At 1200 BST on 30 March 2010 the LHC successfully smashed two proton particle beams travelling with 3.5 TeV (teraelectronvolts) of energy, resulting in a 7 TeV event. However, this was just the start what was needed for the expected discovery of the Higgs boson. When the 7 TeV experimental period ended, the LHC revved to 8 TeV (4 TeV acceleration in both directions) during March 2012, and soon began particle collisions at that rate. In early 2013 the LHC was deactivated for a two-year maintenance period, to strengthen the huge magnets inside the accelerator. Eventually it will attempt to create 14 TeV events. In July 2012, CERN scientists announced the discovery of a new sub-atomic particle that was possibly the much sought after Higgs boson believed to be essential for formation of the Universe.[26] In March 2013, CERN announced that the measurements performed on the newly found particle allowed it to conclude that this is a Higgs boson.[27]

On 5 April 2015 and after two years of maintenance and consolidation, the LHC restarted for a second run. Proton beams successfully circulated in the 27-kilometer ring in both directions. The first ramp to the record-breaking energy of 6.5 TeV was performed on 10 April 2015.[28][29]

Decommissioned accelerators[edit]

Possible future accelerators[edit]

CERN, in collaboration with groups worldwide, is investigating two main concepts for future accelerators: A linear electron-positron collider with a new acceleration concept to increase the energy (CLIC) and a larger version of the LHC, a project currently named Future Circular Collider.


Interior of office building 40 at the Meyrin site. Building 40 hosts many offices for scientists from the CMS and ATLAS collaborations.

The smaller accelerators are on the main Meyrin site (also known as the West Area), which was originally built in Switzerland alongside the French border, but has been extended to span the border since 1965. The French side is under Swiss jurisdiction and there is no obvious border within the site, apart from a line of marker stones. There are six entrances to the Meyrin site:[citation needed]

  • A, in Switzerland, for all CERN personnel at specific times.
  • B, in Switzerland, for all CERN personnel at all times. Often referred to as the main entrance.
  • C, in Switzerland, for all CERN personnel at specific times.
  • D, in Switzerland, for goods reception at specific times.
  • E, in France, for French-resident CERN personnel at specific times. Named ”Porte Charles de Gaulle” in recognition of his role in the creation of CERN.[30]
  • Inter-site tunnel, in France, for equipment transfer to and from CERN sites in France by personnel with a specific permit. This is the only permitted route for such transfers. By the CERN treaty, no taxes are payable when such transfers are made. Controlled by customs personnel.[27][31]

CERN’s main site, from Switzerlandlooking towards France

The SPS and LEP/LHC tunnels are almost entirely outside the main site, and are mostly buried under French farmland and invisible from the surface. However, they have surface sites at various points around them, either as the location of buildings associated with experiments or other facilities needed to operate the colliders such as cryogenic plants and access shafts. The experiments are located at the same underground level as the tunnels at these sites.

Three of these experimental sites are in France, with ATLAS in Switzerland, although some of the ancillary cryogenic and access sites are in Switzerland. The largest of the experimental sites is the Prévessin site, also known as the North Area, which is the target station for non-collider experiments on the SPS accelerator. Other sites are the ones which were used for theUA1, UA2 and the LEP experiments (the latter which will be used for LHC experiments).

Outside of the LEP and LHC experiments, most are officially named and numbered after the site where they were located. For example, NA32 was an experiment looking at the production of so-called ”charmed” particles and located at the Prévessin (North Area) site while WA22 used the Big European Bubble Chamber (BEBC) at the Meyrin (West Area) site to examine neutrino interactions. The UA1 and UA2 experiments were considered to be in the Underground Area, i.e. situated underground at sites on the SPS accelerator.

Most of the roads on the CERN Meyrin and Prévessin sites are named after famous physicists, such as Richard Feynman, Niels Bohr, and Albert Einstein.

Participation and funding[edit]

Member states and budget[edit]

Member states of CERN and current enlargement agenda

  CERN full members
  Accession in progress
  Associate members and Candidate for Accession

Since its foundation by 12 members in 1954, CERN regularly accepted new members. All new members have remained in the organization continuously since their accession, except Spain and Yugoslavia. Spain first joined CERN in 1961, withdrew in 1969, and rejoined in 1983. Yugoslavia was a founding member of CERN but quit in 1961. Of the 21 members, Israel joined CERN as a full member on 6 January 2014,[32] becoming the first (and currently only) non-European full member.[33]

Member state Status since Contribution
(million CHFfor 2014)
(fraction of total for 2014)
Contribution per capita[note 1]
(CHF/person for 2014)
Founding Members[note 2]
 Belgium 29 September 1954 30.5 2.5% 2.7
 Denmark 29 September 1954 19.3 1.6% 3.4
 France 29 September 1954 169.2 14.0% 2.6
 Germany 29 September 1954 222.9 18.5% 2.8
 Greece 29 September 1954 18.0 1.5% 1.6
 Italy 29 September 1954 126.2 10.5% 2.1
 Netherlands 29 September 1954 50.6 4.2% 3.0
 Norway 29 September 1954 28.0 2.3% 5.4
 Sweden 29 September 1954 28.7 2.4% 3.0
  Switzerland 29 September 1954 40.0 3.3% 4.9
 United Kingdom 29 September 1954 152.6 12.7% 2.4
 Yugoslavia 29 September 1954[37][38] 0 0% 0
Acceded Members[note 3]
 Austria 1 June 1959 24.4 2.0% 2.9
 Spain 1 January 1983[40][41] 91.1 7.6% 2.0
 Portugal 1 January 1986 13.2 1.1% 1.3
 Finland 1 January 1991 15.3 1.3% 2.8
 Poland 1 July 1991 29.3 2.4% 0.8
 Hungary 1 July 1992 7.1 0.6% 0.7
 Czech Republic 1 July 1993 11.3 0.9% 1.1
 Slovakia 1 July 1993 5.5 0.5% 1.0
 Bulgaria 11 June 1999 3.1 0.3% 0.4
 Israel 6 January 2014[32] 22.1 1.8% 2.7
Associate Member in the pre-stage to Membership[note 4]
 Serbia 15 March 2012[42] 1.0 0.1% 0.1
 Cyprus 1 April 2016[43]
Associate Members
 Turkey 6 May 2015[44]  %
 Pakistan 31 July 2015[45]  %
Candidates for Accession
 Romania 11 February 2010[46] 7.9 0.7% 0.4
Total Members, Candidates and Associates 1,117.3[47] 92.8%
  1. Jump up^ Based on the population in 2014.[34]
  2. Jump up^ 12 founding members drafted the Convention for the Establishment of a European Organization for Nuclear Research which entered into force on 29 September 1954.[35][36]
  3. Jump up^ Acceded members become CERN member states by ratifying the CERN convention.[39]
  4. Jump up^ Additional contribution from Candidates for Accession and Associate Member States.[39]


Associate Members, Candidates:

  •  Serbia became a candidate for accession to CERN on 19 December 2011, signed an association agreement on 10 January 2012[48][49] and became an official ”Associate Member in the pre-stage to Membership” on 15 March 2012.[42]
  •  Turkey signed an agreement to Associate Membership on 12 May 2014[50] became an associate member on 6 May 2015.
  •  Pakistan signed an agreement to Associate Membership on 19 December 2014[51] became an associate member on 31 July 2015.[52][53]
  •  Cyprus signed an agreement to Associate Member State of CERN in the pre-stage to Membership on 5 October 2012. On 1 April 2016, following the official ratification by the Republic of Cyprus Cyprus became an Associate Member.[43]

International relations[edit]

A world map highlighting the nature of relations of nations with CERN.
  CERN member states: 21 c.
  Accession in progress: 2 c.
  Associate members and Candidates: 4 c.
  Observers: 4 c. + EU + UNESCO + JINR
  Cooperation agreement: 35 c. + Slovenia, Cyprus, Turkey
  Scientific contacts: 19 c.

Four countries have observer status:[54]

  •  Russia – since 1993
  •  Japan – since 1995
  •  United States – since 1997
  •  India – since 2002

Also observers are the following international organizations:

Non-Member States (with dates of Co-operation Agreements) currently involved in CERN programmes are:

  •  Algeria
  •  Argentina – 11 March 1992
  •  Armenia – 25 March 1994
  •  Australia – 1 November 1991
  •  Azerbaijan – 3 December 1997
  •  Belarus – 28 June 1994
  •  Bolivia
  •  Brazil – 19 February 1990 & October 2006
  •  Canada – 11 October 1996
  •  Chile – 10 October 1991
  •  China – 12 July 1991, 14 August 1997 & 17 February 2004
  •  Colombia – 15 May 1993
  •  Croatia – 18 July 1991
  •  Cyprus – 14 February 2006
  •  Ecuador
  •  Egypt – 16 January 2006
  •  Estonia – 23 April 1996
  •  Georgia – 11 October 1996
  •  Iceland – 11 September 1996
  •  Iran – 5 July 2001
  •  Jordan – 12 June 2003.[55] MoU with Jordan and SESAME, in preparation of a cooperation agreement signed in 2004.[56]
  •  Lithuania – 9 November 2004
  •  Macedonia – 27 April 2009[57]
  •  Malta – 10 January 2008[58][59]
  •  Mexico – 20 February 1998
  •  Montenegro – 12 October 1990
  •  Morocco – 14 April 1997
  •  New Zealand – 4 December 2003
  •  Peru – 23 February 1993
  •  Saudi Arabia – 21 January 2006
  •  Slovenia – 7 January 1991
  •  South Africa – 4 July 1992
  •  South Korea – 25 October 2006.
  •  Ukraine – 2 April 1993
  •  United Arab Emirates – 18 January 2006
  •  Vietnam

CERN also has scientific contacts with the following countries:[60]

  •  Cuba
  •  Ghana
  •  Ireland
  •  Latvia
  •  Lebanon
  •  Madagascar
  •  Malaysia
  •  Mozambique
  •  Palestinian Authority
  •  Philippines
  •  Qatar
  •  Rwanda
  •  Singapore
  •  Sri Lanka
  •  Taiwan
  •  Thailand
  •  Tunisia
  •  Uzbekistan
  •  Venezuela

International research institutions, such as CERN, can aid in science diplomacy.[61]

Associated institutions[edit]

ESO and CERN have a cooperation agreement.[62]

Public exhibits[edit]

Facilities at CERN open to the public include:

CERN also provides daily tours to certain facilities such as the Synchro-cyclotron (CERNs first particle accelerator) and the superconducting magnet workshop.

In popular culture[edit]

Line 18 goes to CERN

The statue of Shiva engaging in the Natarajadance presented by theDepartment of Atomic Energyof India.

  • CERN’s Large Hadron Collider is the subject of a (scientifically accurate) rap video starring Katherine McAlpine with some of the facility’s staff.[63][64]
  • CERN is depicted in an episode of South Park (Season 13, Episode 6) called ”Pinewood Derby”. Randy Marsh, the father of one of the main characters, breaks into the ”Hadron Particle Super Collider in Switzerland” and steals a ”superconducting bending magnet created for use in tests with particle acceleration” to use in his son Stan’s Pinewood Derby racer. Randy breaks into CERN dressed in disguise as Princess Leia from the Star Wars saga. The break-in is captured on surveillance tape which is then broadcast on the news.[65]
  • John Titor, a self-proclaimed time traveler, alleged that CERN would invent time travel in 2001.
  • CERN is depicted in the visual novel/anime series Steins;Gate as SERN, a shadowy organization that has been researching time travel in order to restructure and control the world.
  • In a documentary entitled Particle Fever, CERN is explored throughout the inside, and depicts the events surrounding the discovery of the Higgs Boson in 2013
  • In Dan Brown‘s mystery-thriller novel Angels & Demons, a canister of antimatter is stolen from CERN.[66]
  • In the popular children’s series The 39 Clues, CERN is said to be an Ekaterina stronghold hiding the clue hydrogen.
  • In Robert J. Sawyer‘s science fiction novel Flashforward, at CERN, the Large Hadron Collider accelerator is performing a run to search for the Higgs boson when the entire human race sees themselves twenty-one years and six months in the future.
  • In season 3 episode 15 of the popular TV sitcom The Big Bang Theory titled ”The Large Hadron Collision”, Leonard and Raj travel to CERN to attend a conference and see the LHC.
  • The 2012 student film Decay, which centers on the idea of the Large Hadron Collider transforming people into zombies, was filmed on location in CERN’s maintenance tunnels.[67]
  • The Compact Muon Solenoid at CERN was used as the basis for the Megadeth‘s Super Collider album cover.
  • In Denpa Kyoushi, the main character is scouted by ”CERM”
  • In Super Lovers, Haruko (Ren’s mother) worked at CERN, and Ren was taught by CERN professors
  • CERN forms part of the back story of the massively multiplayer augmented reality game Ingress.[68]

See also[edit]


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