The Internet may be referred to as the “information superhighway,” but a better analogy might be an enormous, hulking Tootsie Roll pop. Check out this colorful new Internet map (click the image to enlarge) from physicists at Tel-Aviv University in Israel and you’ll see what we mean. It’s a mathematical representation of the pipes, routers and other bits of hardware that ferry data across the Web. At the map’s red gooey center is a cluster of 100 networks operated by massive corporations like ATT Worldnet and Google. Its purple crunchy outer shell consists mostly of small ISPs. The trouble with being on the periphery is that your data must travel through the congested center, which is sort of like flying through O’Hare on your way from New York to Los Angeles. Basically, it’s really inefficient. The researchers don’t offer much in the way of solutions but say their model will help scientists better track the evolution of the Web, which in turn will help people innovate ways to make it less like a lollipop and more like, well, a superhighway.

If want to learn more about the map and you’re undaunted by math speak like “k-shell decomposition,” “percolation theory,” and “fractal geometry,” download the paper. —Nicole Dyer