Collider probes universe's mysteries at the speed of light

Worldwide computer grid helps scientists make sense of data coming from collider experiments
The Large Hadron Collider. (Photo credit: CERN.)

The Large Hadron Collider. (Photo credit: CERN.)

With the world's biggest physics experiment ready to fire up today, scientists from around the world are hoping to find answers to a question that has haunted mankind for centuries -- how was the universe created?

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC), which has been under construction for 20 years, will shoot its first beam of protons around a 17-mile, vacuum-sealed loop at a facility that sits astride the Franco-Swiss border. The test run of what is the largest, most powerful particle accelerator in the world, is a forebear to the coming time when scientists will accelerate two particle beams toward each other at 99.9 percent of the speed of light.

Smashing the beams together will create showers of new particles that should recreate conditions in the universe just moments after its conception.

Wednesday's test run is a critical milestone in getting to that ultimate test. And a worldwide grid of servers and desktops will help the scientific team make sense of the information that they expect will come pouring in.

"This will move the limit of our understanding of the universe," said Ruth Pordes, executive director of the Open Science Grid, which was created in 2005 to support the LHC project. "I'm very excited about the turning on of the accelerator. Over the next two years, our grids will be used by thousands of physicists at LHC to make new scientific discoveries. That's what it's all for."

Pordes noted that the US portion of the global grid is a computational and data storage infrastructure made up of more than 25,000 computers and 43,000 CPUs. The mostly Linux-based machines linked into the grid from universities, the US Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation and software development groups. Pordes also said the US grid offers up about 300,000 compute hours a day with 70% of it going to the particle collider project.

Harvey Newman, a physics professor at the California Institute of Technology, told Computerworld that there are about 30,000 servers and more than 100,000 cores around the world hooked into grids that support the LHC project.

"The distributed computing model is essential to doing the computing, storage and hosting of the many Petabytes of data from the experiments," said Newman. "Coordinating data distribution, processing and analysis of the data collaboratively by a worldwide community of scientists working on the LHC are key to the physics discoveries. Only a worldwide effort could provide the resources needed."

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Sharon Gaudin

Computerworld
Topics: popular science
Comments are now closed.

Latest News Articles

Most Popular Articles

Follow Us

GGG Evaluation Team

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Steph Mundell

LIFEBOOK UH574

The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.

Andrew Mitsi

STYLISTIC Q702

The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.

Simon Harriott

STYLISTIC Q702

My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.

Resources

Best Deals on GoodGearGuide

Compare & Save

Deals powered by WhistleOut
WhistleOut

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?