The Grid: No, Really

CERN logoImage via WikipediaNo, it’s not science fiction. It’s the Internet on steroids, enabling downloads 10,000 times faster than today’s typical broadband connection. It’s called “the Grid” and it’s coming to your computer this summer.
Seven years in the making, The Grid will fully come alive in late June, when the European particle physics laboratory CERN fires up its massive Large Hadron Collider (LHC), which is buried under France and Switzerland. Scientists will cause hydrogen particles, hurtling at near-lightspeed, to crash into each other, creating mini-explosions at temperatures hotter than the sun.

In a fraction of a second, each crash will generate a flood of data, which will be picked up by sensors and routed to computers all over the globe for analysis. Some 2.3 Terabytes (2.3 million million bytes) of data will be generated each day of the experiment.

Since that data storm would easily overwhelm today’s Internet, engineers created The Grid to handle the deluge. They set it up with dedicated fiber optic cables and state-of-the-art routing centers. They’ve got 55,000 servers installed now, and expect to have 200,000 within two years. See the movie on YouTube.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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