by Margriet van der Heijden. Published: 17 February 2011

An educational cartoon about ALICE has recently been translated in Dutch. The comic, was originally designed in 2004 to explain ALICE and its physics to children and the general public.

The ALICE Experiment

A page from the Dutch version of the ALICE cartoon.

The following article, based on a piece originally published in NRC Handelsblad (29-01-2011), reflects the coverage of the new translation in the Dutch press.

“Are there more parents than children on earth? Why does water make a dark spot on your clothes when it is transparent itself? Can kangaroos swim?”

Every week Dr. Seahorse, the tiniest editor at the Dutch daily NRC Handelsblad, receives a pile of letters and emails. He is probably the science editor who is most often asked to explain things; by children as well as adults.

Dr. Seahorse answers them on his weekly page of science for children. Answering questions, however, isn’t the only thing he does - every week he explains how to perform a small experiment using household items, and presents a story on animals. These are usually related to a recently published discovery, such as how the hearts of grizzly bears survive hibernation, or why a killer whale’s teeth wears out when they eat shark too often.

Last, but not least, Dr. Seahorse reports on discoveries, science exhibitions, books on science and all other kinds of things that might interest children of eight years and older - like the wonderful cartoon on ALICE, which has recently been made available in Dutch.

The story he wrote about it is presented below in English. Dr. Seahorse wishes to thank ALICE and CERN for their support in translating the cartoon.

NRC Handelsblad

Dr Seahorse

ALICE and a strange soup

Strange things happen underground: just read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the famous book that mathematician Lewis Caroll wrote, almost 150 years ago in 1865. In the story, Alice meets bizarre creatures deep underground, and she herself becomes very small, then very tall, and even gets a long neck for a while…

Near the border between France and Switzerland, not far from Geneva, you can take an elevator and descend deep underground as well – up to 100 meters below the surface. You would arrive in enormous halls, where strange apparatuses are standing; they are red and blue, and as high as a couple of houses stacked on top of each other. More than a thousand people have put them together, out of many small parts.

In one apparatus, called ALICE, a weird soup is being cooked – one that is identical to the soup that filled the cosmos shortly after the Big Bang. Honestly!

ALICE is a strange soup pan, though: it contains a drop of soup so tiny that you can’t see it with the naked eye. Maybe it is better to compare ALICE to a magnifying glass that researchers use to study this droplet - a magnifying glass that weighs as much as the Eiffel tower. Phew!

...but where does this droplet come from? It is made according to a very complicated recipe. First, researchers make very tiny particles race at almost the speed of light through a circular underground pipe – 27 kilometres all around. The pipe runs straight through ALICE, and half of the particles fly by clockwise, while the other half races around anticlockwise. You get soup when two of these particles collide - and the researchers make that happen right in the heart of ALICE.

Can you visit these halls, you ask? No, not now. When the apparatuses are working no one is allowed to go down - but you can read about it, in a cartoon that starts the same way as the real story of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Now this cartoon also exists in Dutch – and you can download it from the internet here.

Margriet van der Heijden is the Science editor of NRC Handelsblad, and is responsible for Dr. Seahorse’s weekly page.



reaching out to minds

The educational work you are doing here is so important. When you stop to think of the numbers of great minds that were lost to us because they were female, or of the wrong economic class, or from the wrong country... and the great minds still being undiscovered because of a global lack of educational opportunities... its an ongoing tragedy.
Everything that you do, to spark interest in receptive young minds, is a (literally) incalculable contribution to the science of the future.

Bill J