Here’s a brilliant shot of the PHENIX detector in one of two giant experimental halls at our Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC). This picture was created by one of our PhotoWalk participants, Valerie Debiase. Click to enlarge the photo (trust us, you’re going to want to view this full screen).
PHENIX scientists use this four-story-tall detector to study the properties of quark-gluon plasma, matter that behaves like a “perfect” frictionless fluid and is believed to have been the predominant form of matter in our universe just moments after the Big Bang. In one year of operations at RHIC, data collected by PHENIX would fill enough floppy disks to pave every inch of the Long Island Expressway from the Lab to Manhattan and back (about 120 miles in total!).
But it’s just a metaphor; we don’t store the data on floppy disks these days. Where we would we put them all?!