Note the multicolored diagram in the background. That's an early schematic of ATLAS, one of two enormous particle detectors recently installed at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the 27-kilometer circular particle accelerator set to fire up later this year at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research.
Web history buffs will recall that CERN was the place where physicist Tim Berners-Lee first dreamed up the World Wide Web, back in March 1989, hence the URL of the first Web site.
Seth Zenz, a University of California, Berkeley, grad student in physics who works on ATLAS, had read about the anniversary and was poking around the CERN site when he spotted the connection.
On the group blog US LHC, written by U.S. physicists working on the LHC, Zenz said the image was "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." (He points out that you can now watch ATLAS via webcam.)
CERN continues to push computer networking to new heights. The Worldwide LHC Computing Grid is a global computer network—a shadow Internet, if you will—built to handle the 20-kilometer-tall-stack-of-CDs' worth of information the LHC will generate every year. Here's a cool interactive graphic that gives you the gist of the Grid. See also SciAm's 2003 feature on grid computing ($).
You can almost smell the future. If not the smoldering remains of Alderaan.