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Two mystery boxes in the hands of a new pair of CERN scientists

Will physicist Dorota Grabowska and engineer Alberto Di Meglio be able to use a combination of theory and fact to work out, without opening them, what’s inside the two boxes without opening them?

Défi des écoles - Dorota Grabowska and Alberto Di Meglio
Dorota and Alberto discover the mysterious boxes. (Image: CERN)

Since 2011, the Be a Scientist project has been introducing schoolchildren from Geneva, the Pays de Gex and Haute-Savoie to the scientific research process. The children, who are aged between 8 and 12, come up with theories, collect data and use evidence to determine the contents of boxes supplied by CERN.

In June 2021, which marked the project’s tenth anniversary, the roles were reversed. Under top secret conditions, children from the Jean de la Fontaine school in Prévessin-Moëns (France) and the Cérésole school in Petit-Lancy (Switzerland) hid various objects inside two boxes. The challenge for CERN’s scientists was to work out the contents without opening the boxes.

After reviewing the notes left behind by Mar Capeans and Tapan Nayak, the previous duo to attempt the challenge, theoretical physicist Dorota Grabowska and aerospace engineer Alberto Di Meglio took up the inquiry at the CERN Data Centre visit point.

Although their experiments failed to produce any really concrete results, the pair made several discoveries using all five senses. In particular, they noticed a familiar, sweet smell that reminded them of their childhoods. What could be at the root of this Proustian remembrance of things past? Perhaps Archana Sharma and Pieter Mattelaer will be able to find out in the next edition of the Schools Challenge!


The video is available on CDS

Check out the voisins.cern website for regular updates on the Schools Challenge and to follow the progress of the CERN community’s investigations.