CERN: The Source of the Matter

CERN

Story and photos by Kayte Deioma

Dan Brown’s novel Angels and Demons opens in Geneva, Switzerland with a murdered CERN scientist and a missing canister of antimatter. Standing on top of the 27 km (16.8 miles) Large Hadron Collider (LHC), outside the glass-walled control room of the ATLAS particle detector, where scientists are intent on their banks of computer screens, it’s not that great a stretch to imagine that this benevolent academic setting could mask a hotbed of intrigue. World-changing things are happening here.

Scientist at work in the ATLAS Control Room at CERN

Scienists working in the ATLAS Control Room at CERN, (Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire), the European Organization for Nuclear Research, Geneva, Switzerland

It doesn’t really matter to me that I can’t SEE the particle accelerator under the earth. There’s something fascinating about being at this place where scientists are analyzing the most profound scientific discovery in decades – a potential clue to the source of existence.

I can’t say that I traveled to Geneva specifically to visit CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, but as soon as I knew I was going to be in the neighborhood, I made it my top priority to get on a tour.

I’m more of a social scientist than a physical scientist. I actually dropped physics in high school, because I just didn’t get it. But I’ve take an observer’s interest in this particular pursuit of the source of our existence.

The CERN Visitors Center is just a few steps from the tram stop that brings you from downtown Geneva to the outskirts of town. English tours are scheduled mornings at 10:30, and French tours are afternoons at 3. Guides are volunteers from among the scientists, so your experience will depend on how well your particular guide can explain what’s going on for a lay audience.

Visitors Center at CERN

An inlaid sculpture lights up on the floor at the Visitors Center at CERN, (Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire), the European Organization for Nuclear Research, Geneva, Switzerland

I was on the afternoon tour in French with my friends JB, a scientist, and Corinne, a marketing professional. The rest of the group seemed to be made up of fellow science fans from high school students to adults. The tone of the orientation film and our guide’s multimedia presentation assumed a moderate understanding of physics in the audience, and I was happy that JB could simplify some of the jargon for my benefit.

Scientist Tour Guide at CERN

A physicist explains how a particle acceleration works on a tour of CERN, (Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire), the European Organization for Nuclear Research, Geneva, Switzerland

In basic terms, CERN’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is a giant, miles-long underground tube, frozen to unbelievably cold temperatures, designed to create a particle environment equivalent to conditions before the Big Bang in order to see whether the theory of physical mass being created from energy particles can be proved.

They send protons racing through these tubes at nearly the speed of light, crashing into each other 30 million times per second to see whether they can catch a picture of the hypothesized Higgs boson, sometimes referred to as the “God particle,” which is the bit of physical stuff that must exist to prove the theory. Something that is presumed to be everywhere, and yet hard to perceive.

A representation of the inside of a particle accelerator at CERN, (Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire), the European Organization for Nuclear Research, Geneva, Switzerland

A representation of the inside of a particle accelerator at CERN, (Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire), the European Organization for Nuclear Research, Geneva, Switzerland

Thirty million collisions per second produce an almost inconceivable amount of data that it takes years and massive amounts of cloud computing memory across the globe to analyze (on a side note, the World Wide Web and the first web browser were originally created at CERN in 1989 as a way for scientists to share research data).

Simulations of particle collisions can be observe in the Universe of Particles exhibit inside the dome, where the guided tour ends. It is an immersive experience where you enter a dark world with lit particle orbs. Some of these orbs have interactive multimedia tabletops. Others are pods that you sit inside to listen to audio presentations.

The "Universe of Particles" exhibit at CERN, (Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire), the European Organization for Nuclear Research, Geneva, Switzerland

The “Universe of Particles” exhibit at CERN, (Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire), the European Organization for Nuclear Research, Geneva, Switzerland

The Microcosm, located at the Visitors Center, is another exhibit you can explore on your own that presents more concrete and hands-on displays of the science behind the particle accelerator with models, segments of retired accelerators and photos. It features each of the experiments currently active at CERN. It also includes an exhibit on the history and development of the technology that led to the internet and the World Wide Web.

A piece of a retired particle accelerator at CERN, (Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire), the European Organization for Nuclear Research, Geneva, Switzerland

A piece of a retired particle accelerator at CERN, (Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire), the European Organization for Nuclear Research, Geneva, Switzerland

From experiments begun in 2008, researchers reported the first signs of particles with the attributes of Higgs boson on July 4, 2012. Scientists were quick to point out that although they have found a particle that seems to fit the criteria for Higgs boson, and champagne corks certainly flew, they still don’t know what exactly they’ve found or whether it will prove or disprove the Standard Model of particle physics, so the analysis continues.

Unlike your local science museum, which has exhibits to help young minds grasp basic scientific concepts, the CERN visitor experience assumes you have an interest and some basic familiarity with the subject matter.

A piece of a retired particle accelerator at CERN, (Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire), the European Organization for Nuclear Research, Geneva, Switzerland

A piece of a retired particle accelerator at CERN, (Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire), the European Organization for Nuclear Research, Geneva, Switzerland

There is no charge for the guided tours, but an advance reservation, available through their website, is required. You can also visit the Microcosm and Universe of Particles exhibits for free without a reservation, and there is a physics-themed sculpture garden behind the Visitors Center. Children under 8 years old are not allowed on the guided tours, but can enter the public exhibits.

For more information, to explore the current state of CERN research or to schedule a visit, go to http://home.web.cern.ch/

Plaza Itapema Resort & Spa

story and photos by Kayte Deioma

Itapema Plaza Reflexology Walk

The reflexology meditation walk at Itapema Plaza Resort and Spa, Santa Catarina, Brazil

A concerted zen mindset lets me ignore the discomfort of walking on rocks as I make my way slowly around the knee-deep loop of the meditation pool. The rounded stones are designed to massage your feet, but mine are saying ouch – in a good way. I’m not complaining. No one is forcing me to walk this watery path. I’m just doing my best to experience all that Plaza Itapema Resort and Spa has to offer.

Itapema Plaza Resort, Santa Catarina, Brazil

Local surfers on the beach in front of Itapema Plaza Resort and Spa, Santa Catarina, Brazil

Itapema is tucked along a stretch of Atlantic beach just off Brazil’s highway B 101 about an hour up the coast from Florianopolis, in the southern state of Santa Catarina, Brazil.

On the day of my visit, most of the guests at the resort’s Brain Spa are there for a health and fitness makeover. One couple from Argentina is on an annual pilgrimage to try to drop 10 or 20 pounds in a week. A group of young women friends are attempting a last-ditch effort to get the bride among them into a smaller wedding dress. A couple from Sao Paolo is here just to enjoy the pampering and take a brain break from stressful jobs as psychiatrist and attorney.

Water aerobics at Itapema Plaza Resort

A water aerobics class in the thermal pool at the Itapema Plaza Resort and Spa, Santa Catarina, Brazil

Unlike my fellow guests, who are here for a full week of fitness classes, health food and four spa treatments a day, I am trying to cram as much activity and pampering as possible into my last day in Brazil before my long flight back to LA.

Itapema Plaza Resort, Santa Catarina, Brazil

Swimming pools at Itapema Plaza Resort, Santa Catarina, Brazil

OK, not really so much activity. I’m completely ignoring the golf course, tennis courts, volleyball nets and rope challenge course in favor of a walk on the beach to watch the local surfers, a leisurely swim in the pool and a water exercise class as my nod to the “fitness” component. After carrying 35 lbs of camera gear on my back for the last 10 days, I’m more interested in the massage I have scheduled. But first I have an appointment for a Manthus treatment.

In addition to the beach, outdoor fun at Plaza Itapema Resort includes volleyball, badminton, tennis and golf

The Manthus machine purportedly uses localized ultrasound and electrical stimulation to break down fat cells under the skin so your body can eliminate the fat. It’s no surprise that this is a popular treatment in Brazil, where body image is everything. Brazil ranks third, after the US and China for number of plastic surgeries performed, and, according to a 2009 global plastic surgery study,  has more liposuction treatments performed than anywhere else in the world.

I am skeptical of any treatment that claims to magically eliminate fat, and this one supposedly requires 10 to 12 treatments per area to see effects. But I’m curious, and it’s not something I’ve run into outside of Brazil, so I want to check it out.

The Manthus treatment room at Itapema Plaza Resort and Spa

The Manthus treatment room at Itapema Plaza Resort and Spa

The application of the three-headed ultrasound wand to my belly tickles. A lot. After a half hour of giggling, I have no idea if any fat cells have been affected, but I’m in a jolly mood.

After a light spa lunch of shrimp crepes it’s time for my massage. Katia, my massage therapist offers me a choice of styles in Spanish – there is a plan to add some English-speaking treatment staff, but on my visit, there aren’t any, so Spanish, the most common second language here, comes in handy. I choose a combination of relaxation and deep tissue to get the kinks out of my shoulders and let Katia work her magic.

A shrimp crepe spa lunch at Itapema Plaza Resort & Spa

A shrimp crepe spa lunch at Itapema Plaza Resort & Spa

I’m feeling like a happy noodle by the time I get to my final treatment.

My newly pink toes and blissfully pampered feet leave the spa for the resort’s town car that takes me to the Florianopolis Airport.

On the hour drive  back to Florianopolis, I vaguely contemplate a few of the more adventurous ways I could have spent my final hours in the country and conclude that my Brazilian spa day spent chatting with local surfers on the beach, lunching with other guests and trying a very Brazilian spa treatment, was just the right amount of local culture, and the perfect way to say farewell to the delights of Santa Catarina.

See more photos below.

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Plaza Itapema Resort & Spa

A suite in the South Block of Plaza Itapema Resort & Spa, Santa Catarina, Brazil

Rooms at Plaza Itapema are beach house simple and in some cases a bit austere. Most have an ocean view from the balcony if not directly from the room. Rates including room and meals, fitness classes, golf, tennis, four spa treatments per day and even child care are at fraction of comparable health spas in the US. During high season, a three-day minimum stay is required, and some holidays require a five-day stay.

Plaza Itapema Resort & Spa
BR 101, Km 145
Itapema, SC 88220-000
Brazil
(47) 3261-7000
http://www.plazahoteis.com.br/site2008/itapema/itapema.html

Itapema Plaza Resort, Santa Catarina, Brazil

Ocean view from the balconies of the south block at Itapema Plaza Resort, Santa Catarina, Brazil

 

Itapema Plaza Resort Beach

A rocky beach near Itapema Plaza Resort, Santa Catarina, Brazil

 

Itapema Plaza Resort, Santa Catarina, Brazil

Itapema Plaza Resort and Spa, Santa Catarina, Brazil

Spa Bliss at the Siena in Reno

story and photos by Kayte Deioma

With a couple extra hours to kill in Reno, I always end up on the south bank of the Truckee River at the Spa at Siena, located in the 185-room Tuscan-themed Siena Hotel, Spa and Casino. You don’t have to be a guest of the hotel to enjoy this full-service spa; just leave your cares in the locker, soak your feet in a warm flower petal bath in the serenity room, and let yourself be whisked away to enjoy one of the many stellar treatments.

Signature massages combine whatever techniques you prefer from hot stone to deep tissue. I usually go straight for the Total Bliss massage, which includes a little of everything. Body wraps include aromatherapy, the Café Verde anti-cellulite wrap and the many-flavored Siena Signature wraps. Coffee lovers can be exfoliated with fair-trade coffee and sugar with the Balinese Body Polish.

Hydrotherapy options include thermal mineral or thalasso seaweed baths, manuka honey, chocolate silk, or fruit and crčme Bella Lucce Baths or the champagne and rose Keyano Bath, to name a few. Vinotherapy uses vine and grape seed extracts for a whole array of body, face, hand and feet treatments.

Various package combinations are available, some including a spa lunch, which you can have in the serenity room or at a table overlooking the Truckee River. The Gentlemen’s Choice includes a 60 minute deep tissue massage, 30 minute men’s pedicure, 75 minute Apollo Facial, 30 minute hydrotherapy tub and spa lunch. Chocolate Lovers can combine a Peruvian Chocolate fondue body Wrap, Chocolate Layered Facial, Chocolate Silk hydrotherapy bath and a Peruvian Chocolate manicure and pedicure.

The spa offers infrared sauna and sunless tanning as well as a facials, waxing, manicures and pedicures. Spa guests also have access to the fitness center, pool and Jacuzzi.

The Spa at Siena
Siena Hotel, Spa and Casino
One S. Lake Street
Reno NV 89505
www.sienareno.com
(775) 321-5868