Students “hangout” with CMS physicists on Google+

By . Published on 16 March 2012 in:
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The Compact Muon Solenoid experiment at the LHC [CMS] recently organised two virtual visits to the CMS experimental cavern, around 100 meters underground, using the Google+ Hangouts platform. Schools, universities and interested members of the public were invited to remotely connect with physicists in front of the CMS detector and in the above-ground control room, to talk about the detector, the LHC, and the physics goals of the collaboration.

Google+ Hangouts, a feature of the new social network, are multi-user video calls with up to ten participants. These may also be broadcast live, enabling anyone to view the event, even if they cannot participate in it themselves.


Highlights from the first CMS Google+ hangout. Credit: CMS

The two hangouts, arranged with the help of the Google+ team in the US , were held on 5 and 10 February. The first hangout was hosted by CMS Higgs co-convener Albert De Roeck, while the second – which was broadcast live – was hosted by CMS spokesperson Joe Incandela and physicist Sue Ann Koay



A recording of the second Google+ hangout. Credit: CMS

The response was very encouraging. Students of all ages – from primary school to university – took part in the two hangouts, hailing from Bulgaria, Estonia, Ghana, Greece, Romania, South Africa, Spain and the United States, together with other science enthusiasts from Canada, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the US, while many others watched the live stream and asked questions via comments.

The variety of questions asked ranged from wanting to know how the LHC accelerates tiny particles to nearly the speed of light, to how CMS is able to fine-tune the trigger algorithms to select just those few hundred interesting events, each second, out of the millions that take place inside the detector.

“My students say they learned a lot and were excited to interact with an actual physicist from CERN in the CMS cavern,” said Jeremy Wegner, a physics teacher from the Winamac High School in the US, who joined the first hangout with some of his students. “It was a great experience that I’m sure they’ll remember.”

Outreach events using social tools, such as hangouts, are very easy to organise, and bring experiments such as CMS closer to those interested in the frontiers of high-energy physics. The CMS Communications Group hopes to arrange more such events in the future, and you can watch and participate in future hangouts by following CMS on Google+.

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