Before talking about Collide@CERN, let me briefly discuss CERN. CERN is the particle physics laboratory that houses the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). The LHC really is an incredible experiment, not just because of what it is measuring, but also because humanity decided to pool enough of its resources together and devote enough collective time to it to actually build and use it. I won't go into detail as to what the LHC actually does (CERN does a very good job of publicising this themselves – and perhaps Gareth might be tempted into writing a guest post for us) but it is definitely the most important particle physics experiment that exists today and is basically studying what nature does at the smallest lengths and highest energies that we have ever studied. Coincidentally, very early on in its history, the universe was extremely hot and dense, so the laws and patterns observed by the LHC are also very relevant to the early stages of the universe. This is why CERN will often claim that the LHC is “recreating the conditions during the big bang”.
In any case, CERN have always been very, very good at outreach. It doesn't really surprise me that the most ambitious and most difficult experiment humanity has ever attempted is run by an organisation that tries so hard and so effectively to explain and popularise what it does. People care about what they know about and they know about what they are introduced to. If anyone is ever visiting Switzerland, it is well worth it to actually visit CERN. Not only will you be participating in a sort of high energy physics pilgrimage, but you should find CERN well catered to non-specialist tourists as well. I'd even go as far as to say you should consider visiting Geneva just to see CERN!
If I can allow myself to get to the point, Collide@CERN is a programme CERN is just starting that goes beyond just outreach and is part of a concerted effort by CERN to actively engage with the arts through what they've called Arts@CERN. Collide@CERN is a competition for artists. From the press release I linked to:
"The prize consists of a two-part residency. Two months will be spent at CERN, where the winning artist will team up with a scientist as inspirational partner; then one month will be spent at Ars Electronica, where the artist will develop work inspired by the time spent at CERN."The programme seems to have some prominent artists behind it, as well as reasonably substantial funding.
I've always found CERN's contribution to science popularisation impressive. These new steps impress me even more. I'm intrigued to see how Arts@CERN develops. Perhaps some of our current and/or future readers might even be interested in entering the competition.For anyone on twitter... both @CERN and @ArtsAtCERN have twitter accounts.