CERN Accelerating science

Engage in a playful way with the physics done at CERN.

LHC interactive tunnel.

by Joao Antunes Pequenao, Panos Charitos

Have you ever imagined how it would be like to walk inside the Higgs field or to cause collisions by playing football with a proton-ball made of three quarks? The PH/EDU group designed an interactive tunnel of the LHC that offers visitors the unique experience of being a particle physicist working on one of the largest machines on Earth.

The interactive tunnel was presented for the first time last October during Frankfurt’s International Book Fair. It has been especially designed to introduce visitors to the world of sub-atomic particles by using state-of-the-art motion sensors and projectors. JThe CERN Media Lab team started working on this project in June and they managed to present a fully functional version during the book fair, despite the limited amount of time they had.


 The CERN Media-Lab team (L to R): Arzur Catel, João Bárcia, Frederic Merlet, Charles-Henry Denarie, João Pequenão, Daniel Dominguez, Rolf Landua, Henrique Carvalho,Guillaume Lacroix

The system consists of five back projectors and two projectors sitting on the top that simulate a life-size model of the LHC tunnel. It currently operates in three different modes. The first is the so-called "HIGGNITE" which visualizes the effect of the Higgs field in the motions of the human body. While walking on the area that is projected on the floor, visitors can experience the differences induced by the Higgs field in different spaces. At the same time they come across a number of cosmic particles which, when triggered by the user, simulate the different paths of photons and protons on their encounter with the Higgs field.

Dancing within the Higgs Field at the LHC Interactive Tunnel

The second mode invites visitors to a football match where the balls are made out of protons that come directly from a H2 bottle and then go through the booster in the same manner as with the LHC. By kicking virtual particles as hard as possible, the user can simulate the collisions of protons which are then visualized, thus s/he can observe the tracks of the collisions and how they are spotted by different detectors. The team developed an event generator that creates event displays depending on the actual force that the particle receives.

Finally, the interactive tunnel can project videos which can complement a presentation on particle physics to the public. 

The system consists of 7 projectors and one 6m by 2.5m screen while 4 kinect sensors were used to detect the motions of the visitors. This project has also been demanding code-wise and was mostly programmed in C#, with parts in Javascript and custom libraries in C++

The LHC-interactive tunnel will be exhibited in Annecy from March 28 to April 7 ( and then follows to Brussels. Meanwhile the University of Würzburg has already bought the first prototype of the tunnel. The work is not stopping here. The members of the group (see Fig. ) are now developing the LHC-tunnel v.2.0.0 where special attention is paid to the portability of the project and  the development of new tools that will minimize the time and effort needed to set up the tunnel. 


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