Saturday, March 2, 2024

What can CERN be used for?

Facilities like CERN are good examples of ways in which fundamental research seep into our daily lives. As our understanding of the fundamental laws of the universe increased, clever people found ways to apply this knowledge to other areas.

In fact, there are several CERN pages dedicated the applications of its research, from automation and big data technologies to quantum and other emerging technologies.

In my view, medical applications are one of the most striking examples of the use of particle physics. Nowadays, LINAC (linear accelerators) are built by commercial companies and sold to oncology departments to perform radiation therapy. There is much to explore on this topic, so you will read about it again.

Another type of application I love is the study of historical and artistic items. Accelerators are a way to get the closest look possible at the structure of, say, a painting, and to determine where it comes from by analysing its composition. Archeologists and historians increasingly rely on these tools, because they are not destructive: no need to get a sample to analyse it, just place in front of the exit window. In fact, there is almost no need to touch anything any more, as the next generation of accelerators will be small enough to go to the museums.

Finally, I said I would not dedicate this site to software technologies, I know. But it would almost be dishonest to gloss over the impact that CERN has had in bringing the world wide web and the big data processing techniques that we all enjoy today. So for once, the post image acknowledges the mix of hardware and software technologies that made this blog possible.

image credit: Max Braun, originally posted on Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0.

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