Today I had a wonderful tour around CERN with Ben Segal and Jean-Francois Groff, who worked with Tim Berners-Lee (Segal pushed for CERN to adopt TCP/IP, and Tim Berners-Lee wrote in a note in his book that Ben’s role in the building of the Internet and its adoption at CERN was understated and not known by many people). Ben wrote an important paper called “A short history of protocols at CERN.” A really remarkable man, very humble too. If you met him you’d never guess the kind of role he played in the adoption of the Internet in Europe.
The stories he tells are ones of advertisity, not being liked (TCP/IP wasn’t popular at CERN), and resource constraints (he and other people had to push to buy a NeXT computer for Tim — we got a look at that computer too — which ran the first Web Server. The first. Think about that. Among other things that were hard to get resources for).
I’ll have video of the tour up in a couple of weeks, really great stories of Web history.
Last night Maryam and I had dinner with three physicists, including Brian Cox, who is one of the most remarkable human beings I’ve ever met (he gave a wonderful talk yesterday about CERN’s new experiments). He’s a former rock star, is married to a TV presenter, and is now an experimental physicist working at CERN. Here’s a video of Brian Cox at the recent DLD conference in Germany.
The stories they tell of the discoveries that will be made in the next three to 10 years are mind boggling. The new machine at CERN that they will turn on for the first time later this year will explain the mysteries behind mass and potentially gravity and other forces that scientists have been seeking to explain.
If you ever get a chance to tour CERN, do it. The machines they are building are quite remarkable and the data that’s going to be kicked out of this place will forever change what we understand about the world. Oh, and quite a bit of data too. While the Large Hadron Collider is running it’ll kick out as much data as 10,000 Encyclopedia Britanicas EVERY SECOND! The computing resources needed to deal with this data flow are extreme (they are building a grid of computers, all around the world, to deal with the flow).
After the tour, Maryam and I went shopping in downtown Geneva with Thomas Mygdal, who runs the excellent Reboot Conference. One thing I didn’t know about Thomas is that he’s a high-school dropout. He’s a remarkable person. Demonstrates you don’t need to follow a traditional path to make an impact on the world.
You know, some days I pinch myself three times just to make sure I’m not dreaming. Today was one of those days.
Is our world about to change due to the new massive machine at CERN? Every physicist at CERN tells me “yes.”
UPDATE: Nicolas Charbonnier participated in a CERN workshop and tour of the Large Hadron Collider and has his video up already. Awesome stuff.