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Seth Zenz | Imperial College London | UK

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Is that what I think it is…?

After reading recently about the 15th anniversary of the World Wide Web, I took a little surf over to the location of the world’s first website, http://info.cern.ch. I was looking at screen captures from one of the early web browsers, from 1993, when I saw this:

ATLAS on Tim Berners-Lee’s 1993 Web Browser

[CERN copyright]

The color scheme threw me off for a second, but that image looked really familiar. I must have seen an experiment like that somewhere before… And indeed, if you click on the photo to zoom in, the highlighted text is “ATLAS.” Anyway, I’d recognize those toroids anywhere.

This is an amazing reminder of just how long it takes to build a modern collider detector, and of just how different life was fifteen years ago. When you wanted to buy something, you went to a store or ordered it on the phone. When you had to look up an obscure fact, you went to the library. When you had a random opinion to share, unless you were really famous, you could only deliver it to people you met in person. I was eleven. Yet physicists and engineers had been working toward building the ATLAS detector for years already, and on paper—and on a little experiment in information-exchange being developed at CERN—it was already looking almost exactly like its final form.

The amount the world has changed since then is staggering, but so is the amount of effort that has gone into making ATLAS, the LHC, and the other experiments a reality. It’s a lot better to be able to see ATLAS on a webcam than just on a web browser.

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