CERN: A Center of Excellence

What is the universe made of? How did it start? Physicists at CERN are seeking answers, using some of the world's most powerful particle accelerators in a collaborative manner that can be a source of inspiration for everyone.

At CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, physicists and engineers are probing the fundamental structure of the universe. They use the world's largest and most complex scientific instruments to study the basic constituents of matter - the fundamental particles. The particles are made to collide together at close to the speed of light. The process gives the physicists clues about how the particles interact, and provides insights into the fundamental laws of nature.

The instruments used at CERN are purpose-built particle accelerators and detectors. Accelerators boost beams of particles to high energies before the beams are made to collide with each other or with stationary targets. Detectors observe and record the results of these collisions.

Founded in 1954, the CERN laboratory sits astride the Franco-Swiss border near Geneva. It was one of Europe's first joint ventures and now has 20 member states and collaborating scientists from almost every major country in the world.

The name CERN, the Internet and the Beacon

The name CERN is derived from the acronym for the French "Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire", or European Council for Nuclear Research, a provisional body founded in 1952 with the mandate of establishing a world-class fundamental physics research organization in Europe. At that time, pure physics research concentrated on understanding the inside of the atom, hence the word "nuclear".
Today, our understanding of matter goes much deeper than the nucleus, and CERN's main area of research is particle physics – the study of the fundamental constituents of matter and the forces acting between them. Because of this, the laboratory operated by CERN is often referred to as the European Laboratory for Particle Physics. 
CERN is also known as the place where the Internet was invented for the first time. It emerged from the need to have public and fully transparent access to scientific data among scientists that where geographically dispersed. This 'openness' of access led to unimaginable breakthroughs in the ways human communication is realized in the modern world.
CERN is a center of excellence where pure, research driven, collaborative effort is realized among scientists practically from all over the world and with diverse backgrounds. It stands as an example of how humans can work with each other overcoming possible political, racial and religious prejudices or pride. Even during the cold-war era soviet and other east-block scientists were working in full harmony and mutual respect with their western and american colleagues on the scientific problems they had to solve. This is important because, as a beacon, keeps reminding us of what is possible when humans can work together.