The CERN Exhibition

The Hunt for the Beginning of World – about the mystery that we exist.


CERN (Centre Européenne pour des Recherche Nucleaire) is the name of the European organisation for ”nuclear” research, straddling the Franco-Swiss border near Geneva. Since its foundation in 1954, CERN has developed into the world’s leading facility for what used to be called ”atomic research” but nowadays is known as particle physics. The facility comprises a 27-km long, circular particle accelerator, located 100 metres below the Earth’s surface, and four major “experiments” – gigantic devices to detect and measure rare particles, some of which can today only be created artificially, but which existed during the first moments of the history of our Universe. In this sense, CERN is a true time machine that allows scientists to catch a glimpse of what happened when the Universe we now know came into being almost 14,000 million years ago. In doing so, they aim to answer some of humankind’s most basic questions: What is the world composed of? And why does it exist at all?


Around 10,000 people work at CERN. In many ways, it is a mini-society that exists on its own – very special, indeed – distinct conditions. A society that turns around exotic particles such as quarks, neutrinos, tauons and muons, string theories and the possible existence of multiple, parallel universes.


CERN is the meeting ground for the world’s leading physicists – theoreticians and experimentalists – but also a place for the development of advanced technologies. Among the many spin-off products are PET scanners used in hospitals, advanced proton therapy for cancer patients, the concept of “grid-computing” and even key technologies behind the Internet, including the hypertext mark-up language, that forms the basis for the worldwide web (www).


Claus Madsen has a double background in photography and science communication. He received his training as a photographer at the Danish School of Photography and a Danish newspaper (1970-74), has subsequently obtained a Master’s Degree in the field of Science and Society with a focus on science communication. Between 1980-2016 he was a staff member of the European Organisation for Astronomy, ESO, a sister organisation of CERN, but for many years he has also worked for and with CERN. Today he is associated with a CERN project in support of the development of future technologies. With the photographs on display he wishes to provide an insight into the special world of CERN – its people and its facilities – that is normally difficult to access for the general public.


The Exhibition comprises about 55-60 colour photographs, mostly in 50x70 cm formats, mounted on aluminium boards. The pictures are accompanied by short descriptive texts. Initially, the photographs were put on display at the Phototek in the Main City Library of Esbjerg, Denmark in February-March 2020.