We touch Big Science every day. Although projects related to Big Science are obviously carried out in large institutions, such as CERN or ESS, we do not realise how close it is to us. We meet it every day when we use Wi-Fi or a cordless vacuum cleaner. It is often created by entrepreneurs or scientists working at universities or science parks only a few streets away from our houses.
We are more than certain that everyone who is reading this article has come across some of the “side effects” of Big Science that took the form of devices or technologies which changed people’s lives and economies.
See which technologies and products have been developed as part of Big Science projects. Note that these are just a few of many examples.
Wi-Fi was developed on the basis of a technology created for the purposes of studying radiation from exploding black holes. This “side effect” of an unsuccessful research project has altered the face of data transfer.
Capacitive touchscreens were invented in CERN Frank Beck and Bent Stumpe in the seventies. Initially, they were to be used in CERN’s internal control and command systems. Commercialisation of the technology has made the solution extremely popular – billions of people use it in their smartphones, tablets and other devices.
The devices making it easier for us to measure body temperature were developed on the basis of a technology applied in telescopes to measure the temperature of stars.
Over time, solar panels lose their ability to transform sunrays into energy. A technology developed at CERN for the purpose of studies conducted in particle colliders extended their life and, at the same time, made it possible to put it into common use, even in places where sun does not shine too intensively.
HyperText Markup, or HTML, which allows describing the structure of information within a website, was created at CERN in 1989 by Tim Berners-Lee for the purposes of managing access to documents in organisations. It marked the beginning of the development of a series of innovative solutions that contributed to the creation of modern Internet network, World Wide Web. This invention has completely changed global economy by giving rise to new sectors, products, services and sales markets.
The device relies on a technology developed at NASA for the monitoring of astronauts’ vital parameters during long space travels.
Although it is not a single product, it may be said beyond doubt that Big Science generates Big Data and develops systems for its processing. Big Science projects generate immense amounts of data. The Great Hadron Collider, for example, produces 15 petabytes (15 000 000 000 000 000), or 15 000 000 billion bytes, of data annually. To illustrate this example, imagine that a standard flash drive available in the market today is able to store approx. 64 GB of data. It means that to store data from the Great Hadron Collider, you would need over 234 billion flash drives. The need to manage such amounts of data led to the development of advanced software currently applied in banking or in the medical sector.
According to the data from CERN, one fourth of the twenty most frequently used medicines in the world (such as advanced products against malaria, influenza or AIDS) was developed with the use of research infrastructure related to synchrotron, a particular type of a cyclic accelerator built for the purpose of studies of physics.
NASA, similarly to its European equivalent ESA, which appears in a lot in our online articles, is undoubtedly a Big Science institution. As part of its project Home and City, in a form of interactive visualisations NASA presented what the effects of its projects in industry and in daily human lives are. These effects include ski goggles, rescue blankets, cordless headphones, detectors or chemical pollution or insulation foam.
See for yourselves: