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Two CERN physicists take up the mystery boxes challenge set by local primary schools

Will CERN physicists Mar Capeans and Tapan Nayak use their knowledge of the fundamental properties of matter wisely to detect what’s inside the boxes?

Wednesday, 27 October 2021


For the last 10 years, as part of the Be a Scientist project, local schools have been receiving strange mystery boxes from CERN. Like researchers who are looking for invisible elementary particles, the pupils make hypotheses, collect data and use evidence as they set out to identify the contents of the boxes without opening them.

As the project celebrates its 10th anniversary, the tables have been turned. Pupils from Jean de la Fontaine school (Prévessin-Moëns, France) and Cérésole school (Petit-Lancy, Switzerland) have hidden various objects in two boxes and set a challenge for CERN scientists to find out what’s inside in just a few months!

In the ALICE experiment’s cavern, Mar Capeans (Head of the Site and Civil Engineering department) and Tapan Nayak (Experimental Physicist) are the third team to take up the challenge.
Based on the notes left by Katy Foraz and Andre Henriques, the previous team to conduct investigations, Mar and Tapan carried out new experiments. While the infrared camera didn’t reveal anything, it seems that a magnet brought close to the French box causes it to beep. Is that a metal detector inside? Dorota Grabowska and Alberto Di Meglio will tell us more in the next episode of the Schools Challenge!

Mar and Tapan with the mystery boxes provided by the primary schools (credit : CERN)

Visit the voisins.cern website for regular updates on the challenge and to read more about the progress of the investigations being conducted by the CERN community.