By Denis Balibouse

A big part of being a news photographer is doing research. Not just the search for themes or events to cover but also finding enough information before an event so that we are able to cover it correctly. Taking a photo is often one of the last things I do in a long job.

If there’s one subject I have trouble understanding, despite almost 10 years covering it, it’s the search for the Higgs boson in the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the world’s largest and highest-energy particle accelerator at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva. When it comes to CERN, I often find myself “lost in collisions”.

I first took photographs at CERN in September 2004, a few years after digging commenced for the 27km-long (17 miles) tunnel of the LHC. I went to a site in France where CERN was celebrating its 50th anniversary by pointing beams to the night sky to give those of us on the ground an idea about the size of the ring. I could only get five out of the 24 beams in my photo, as it was so gigantic.

One of the things that I have trouble understanding is what the people at CERN actually do. What are hadrons, protons, ions, quarks and gluons? What does TeV and GeV mean and why can’t I find so many of the symbols that CERN uses on my keyboard? And why are they sending particles invisible to the human eye around a 27 km (16 miles) circle at almost the speed of light (they say 99.99999 %) in order to collide with other particles?

Nevertheless, they have convinced me that their research is necessary, as it helps us to understand where we come from, and what came after the Big Bang. I know that we already owe a great debt to the boffins at CERN: this blog post would not be possible without the World Wide Web, which Tim Berners-Lee started in 1989.