Infinity at top speed

Since 2009, the Seine-Saint-Denis County Council has been backing “la Culture et l’Art au Collège (CAC)”. This project is based to a large extent on the presence in class for several weeks (40h) of an artist or scientist whose mission is to engage the students in a process of research and creation. 

 

Tutor: Sophie Houdart/ anthroplogist

Project leader: Mathieu Marion

 

Objectives: 
In close collaboration with the CERN, “Infinity at Top Speed” gave the pupils an opportunity to discover one of the most incredible scientific instruments man has ever built: the LHC - Large Hadron Collider – the biggest particle accelerator in the world. Particles hurtle along its 27 km of tunnels 100 metres underground at 99.9999991% of the speed of light and go round the collider 11,245 times a second! In this project, the pupils approach research in a different way, not just through particular scientific content, but by exploring a specific world, a tool, an occupation with its own culture, practices, expertise, codes and habits.

Workshop:
The field raises major questions so the project was divided into three sections: LHC, the big machine; LHC and its scientific discourse; LHC and its environment.

Introduction to the anthropology of science
Before the anthropologist took them into the world of research, the class talked freely about what they thought it would be like. Their ideas were used as working hypotheses. To make them more observant and sufficiently independent and active during their day at the CERN, the anthropologist of science helped them draw up a “research protocol.”

Field experience
At the CERN, the class observed the work in progress and the daily routine. They spent their time in this strange place:
·       observing;
·       asking questions;
·       collecting a maximum amount of information and explanations.

Analysis and description
After the observation period, the pupils pooled their information and wrote a structured report in relation to their initial ideas. This report enabled them to make a number of statements about the way this incredible machine functions.

Outcome:
The pupils produced three research reports based on information collected throughout the project and presented as three letters to the physicists at the CERN and to the machine itself. The reports were a way of questioning all the partners, researchers and laboratories about the pupils’ results and discoveries, using a different approach for each letter (methodological, thematic). 

 

Outing:
- VISIT AND TWO-DAY SURVEY AT THE CERN (EUROPEAN ORGANISATION FOR NUCLEAR RESEARCH) IN MEYRIN (SWITZERLAND).

Participating school:
- CLASS 3E4, COLLÈGE JAURÈS, PANTIN