NPR

At CERN, In Search Of Nature's Building Blocks

In a world so divided by cultural and economic warfare, what happens at the European laboratory for particle physics stands out as a celebration of the best we have to offer, says Marcelo Gleiser.
Part of the LHC at CERN. Source: Getty Images/iStockphoto

I entered the packed cafeteria with tray in hand, searching for the right food to eat.

Around me, hundreds of people of all ages spoke excitedly in dozens of different languages, commenting on each other's ideas, asking questions, and thinking of the next steps in their research programs.

Lunchtime at the United Nations?

No. Lunchtime at CERN, the European laboratory for particle physics, home of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) — the huge machine that famously discovered the Higgs boson in 2012. I'm spending a month here as a visiting scientist to keep up with the latest results and present some of my own.

"Crowded today, huh?," I said to my friend Michelangelo Mangano, a world-renowned particle physicist and member of CERN's famed Theory Group. "Now?" he asks. "It's empty!"

High-energy particle physics sounds like a very

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