Sunday, April 6, 2008

Why Give Money To Particle Physicists?

We had a post a while back musing over different reasons to give for demanding our research is funded.

Here you go: If you give money to particle physicists they will do something like create the internet. Why do I say that? Well: Particle Physicists at CERN created the internet!

*One reason you know it was scientists and not some free market company is the world wide web was released for free to the public. (See below.) Would we better off if some company patented it and controlled it? I think not. Go open source!*

Back in the 80s particle physicists wanted to create something that would send their data to people all over the world. They created the world wide web. Recently, CERN has created a "new version of the internet" that is 10,000 times faster.

From the new Times story:
"THE internet could soon be made obsolete. The scientists who
pioneered it have now built a lightning-fast replacement capable of
downloading entire feature films within seconds.

At speeds about 10,000 times faster than a typical broadband
connection, "the grid" will be able to send the entire Rolling Stones
back catalogue from Britain to Japan in less than two seconds.

The latest spin-off from Cern, the particle physics centre that
created the web, the grid could also provide the kind of power needed
to transmit holographic images; allow instant online gaming with
hundreds of thousands of players; and offer high-definition video
telephony for the price of a local call."

From the Wikipedia:

The World Wide Web began as a CERN project called ENQUIRE, initiated by Tim Berners-Lee and Robert Cailliau in 1989. Berners-Lee and Cailliau were jointly honored by the ACM in 1995 for their contributions to the development of the World Wide Web.

Based on the concept of hypertext, the project was aimed at facilitating sharing information among researchers. The first website went on-line in 1991. On 30 April 1993, CERN announced that the World Wide Web would be free to anyone. A copy of the original first webpage, created by Berners-Lee, is kept here

Prior to the Web's development, CERN had been a pioneer in the introduction of Internet technology in Europe, beginning in the early 1980s. A short history of this period can be found here.

So, again, if you give money to particle physicists they will do something like create the internet.


  1. As a point of clarification, the CERN created the World Wide Web, not the internet. The forerunner of the internet, known as ARPANET, was a product of the space race in the late 50's that started by linking the nations radar centers together.

    However, I think that everyone would agree that a billion dollars for the World Wide Web is a steal of a deal.

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