CERN - where the World Wide Web was born.

By Zbigniew Koziol

In late 1990, Tim Berners-Lee, a computer scientist working at European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) invented the World Wide Web. It was originally created for the large high-energy physics collaborations where instantaneous information sharing between physicists working at CERN, and also in different institutes all over the world is important. The first software was running on a NeXTStep platform. CERN was a pioneer in this field: It provide a major stimulus for the development of computing and networking, and it remains a major hub for Internet connectivity in Europe (in Poland, the Internet has been started by physicists from Warsaw University and there the very first Polish web pages were created, one of the first in the world as well).

At CERN, many important discoveries were done, not only in particle physics. Cancer therapy, medical and industrial imaging, radiation processing, electronics, measuring instruments, new manufacturing processes and materials, these are just some of the many technologies developed there that spread out later to laboratories and industry across the world.

Several CERN scientists have received prestigious awards, including Nobel prizes for their discoveries. One of them is Georges Charpak, born in 1924 in Poland. He won the Nobel prize in 1992 for his invention and development of particle detectors.

It was a new spirit of international cooperation in post WWII Europe that resulted in creating that large scientific laboratory. The first idea has been brought by famous Louis de Broglie, in 1949, and the laboratory has been created in 1954, after an agreement of 11 European governments. While Polish scientists collaborated for years with this prestigious institution, Poland joined CERN as a full member country in 1991, as the first country from the former communist block. At present, most European countries participate there while USA and Canada have a status of observers in this organization.

The laboratory is a huge modern complex located nicely on the border between France and Switzerland, near Geneva (see the picture). It employs about 3000 scientists, engineers, technicians, administrators, and others and involves several hundred organizations from across the world. To have an example of the scale of work involved, let us look to ATLAS project, which is one of the big experiments under construction for the LHC (Large Hadron Collider).

The ATLAS particle detector (A Toroidal LHC ApparatuS) has a mass of 7000 tons, with diameter of 22 m, length of 42 m, and magnetic field inside of 2 Tesla. In order to keep desired precision of measurement, that huge construction is being monitored by a bunch of laser beams that can measure its position with accuracy of 0.1 mm. The experiment is being constructed by 1700 collaborators from 144 institutes in 33 countries. The physicists taking part are supported by an even larger number of high-level technicians and engineers.

Poland participates in several experiments conducted at CERN. In ATLAS, there are groups from Institute of Nuclear Physics and from Academy of Mining and Metallurgy in Cracow. In CMS (Compact Muon Solenoid) Institute of Experimental Physics of Warsaw University participates and also Institute of Nuclear Research from Warsaw. In DELPHI, a group from Warsaw University is involved.

In 1995 the first Polish industrial and technological exhibition opened at CERN. Aleksander Luczak, the Polish Deputy Prime Minister, announced there that "It provides an opportunity for CERN to get better acquainted with our industrial potential and, on the other hand, provides an opportunity for our exhibitors to learn more about CERN".

In 1999, in collaboration with the University of Warsaw and the 'Internet for Schools', CERN School of Computing has been organized in Poland. It has become a valuable training ground for students in high energy physics and related fields.