How the Large Hadron Collider Might Change the Web
When the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) begins smashing protons together this fall inside its 17-mile- (27-kilometer-) circumference underground particle racetrack near Geneva, Switzerland, it will usher in a new era not only of physics but also of computing.
Before the year is out, the LHC is projected to begin pumping out a tsunami of raw data equivalent to one DVD (five gigabytes) every five seconds. Its annual output of 15 petabytes (15 million gigabytes) will soon dwarf that of any other scientific experiment in history.
The challenge is making that data accessible to a scientist anywhere in the world at the execution of a few commands on her laptop. The solution is a global computer network called the LHC Computing Grid, and with any luck, it may be giving us a glimpse of the Internet of the future.
Once the LHC reaches full capacity sometime next year, it will be churning out snapshots of particle collisions by the hundreds every second, captured in four subterranean detectors standing from one and a half to eight stories tall.* It is the grid's job to find the extremely rare events—a bit of missing energy here, a pattern of particles there—that could solve lingering mysteries such as the origin of mass or the nature of dark matter.