While the accuracy of its most ambitious
simulations is still is a work in progress, Stanford University's Folding@home
has been a visionary project in showcasing the merits of distributed,
I. LHC Powers up With New Volunteer Computing
Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire --
European Council for Nuclear Research) is teaming up with United Nations
Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), and the University of Geneva to create
an organization dubbed "Citizen Cyberscience
Centre", which looks to test and deploy similar projects.
The Citizen Cyberscience Centre just yesterday released [press
release] its second generation LHC@home software, whose ambitious goal is to
assist scientists with locating the legendary Higgs boson and other exotic
The client is available to download here.
Its concept is that while scientists have advanced
physics theory that tells them how they expect systems to behave, they can't
actually give a prediction of how a particular system will behave until they
put that theory into a system. With LHC@home, members of the public can
install a client on their computers, which will apply their spare computing
power towards simulating high-energy collisions between protons. The
results will then be compared with experimental data from real-world LHC runs
to narrow the search for items of interest.
The LHC stands for "Large Hadron
Collider". The massive 17 mile (27 km) underground track on the
Swiss-French border is the world's most powerful particle accelerator.
The LHC has been conducting
full experimental runs during warm months since March 30, 2010, after two years
Professor Dave Britton of the University of Glasgow, a researcher who previously
worked on the CMS LHC sensor, and currently works on the ATLAS sensor project, is a developer of cloud-based particle physics computing schemes. While not directly affiliated with the LHC@home code, he voiced enthusiasm on the effort, which is similar to his own GridPP (www.gridpp.ac.uk) distributed particle physics effort.
He remarks, "Scientists like me are trying to
answer fundamental questions about the structure and origin of the Universe.
Through the Citizen Cyberscience Centre and its volunteers around the world,
the Grid computing tools and techniques that I use everyday are available to
scientists in developing countries, giving them access to the latest computing
technology and the ability to solve the problems that they are facing, such as
providing clean water. Whether you're interested in finding the Higgs boson,
playing a part in humanitarian aid or advancing knowledge in developing
countries, this is a great project to get involved with."
II. LHC@home Can Also be Used to Protect
Forests -- and Lives
The new project will also be applied to processing
satellite data from governments and private entities to protect the environment
and human lives. These applications will also draw computing resources
from the LHC@home 2.0 client.
One plan involves tracking of natural disasters
such as floods, tsunamis, and earthquakes. Such a project could help aid
workers locate injured people, saving lives. It could also help people
avoid imminent natural disasters.
Another potential humanitarian application is to
use the data processing capabilities to locate clean drinking water. Many
regions of the world still
lack reliable sources of safe-to-drink water.
Additionally, the processing power can be used to
track deforestation. This will allow international governments and
environmental action organizations to assess the extent of environmental damage
and loss of biodiversity. This will allow them to better formulate plans
of action to preserve our planet's natural treasures.
Describes Francesco Pisano, Manager of
UNOSAT, "From a development and humanitarian perspective, the potential of
citizen-powered research is enormous. Participating in the Citizen Cyberscience
Centre enables us to get new insights into the cutting edge of crowdsourcing
technologies. There is no doubt that volunteers are playing an increasingly
central role in dealing with crisis response, thanks to the Internet."
III. Project is True Team Effort
While it may sound like the public is doing all
the work on these projects, they also require a great deal of effort from CERN
and its partners. Not only do they have to develop all the software, but
they also have to process the data down to a form that's digestible by the
To that end the UK's Science & Technology
Facilities Council is providing one of the world's top ten Tier 1 data centers
to serving up information to LHC@home 2.0 clients.
The reward, though, of the marriage of academia,
government institutions, and the public is in producing a distributed
supercomputer that far exceeds the capacity of even today's most
powerful stand-alone installations.