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CERN reaches out to PC and laptop users

Help scientists with the Large Hadron Collider
Mon Aug 08 2011, 17:36

THE LARGE HADRON COLLIDER project is reaching out to PC and laptop users to help it reach its full potential.

The Centre for European Nuclear Research (CERN) is giving people a chance to "hunt for the Higgs boson" or "help coordinate disaster relief" with its Citizen Cyberscience Centre.

As part of the European Year of Volunteering, the Citizen Cyberscience Centre is launching a new version of LHC@home today.

The latest version, called LHC@home 2.0, simulates collisions between two beams of protons travelling at almost the speed of light in the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). Scientists working at CERN compare these simulations, based on their own theoretical models, with real data from the four LHC experiments.

The project makes use of the idle time on the volunteers' PCs, bringing them together to form a "Volunteer Cloud" that can work as a "virtual supercomputer".

And LHC@home 2.0 is not the only project that can benefit through CERN from volunteers harnessing the collective power of their laptops and PCs. Through this virtual supercomputer, the Citizen Cyberscience Centre is providing low cost technology to help researchers in developing countries meet challenges like providing clean water and tackling vital humanitarian work including crisis mapping and damage assessment.

Sergio Bertolucci, director of research and scientific computing at CERN said that "while LHC@home is a great opportunity to encourage more public involvement in science, the biggest benefits of citizen cyberscience are for researchers in developing regions who have limited resources for computing and manpower."

He added, "Online volunteers can boost available research resources enormously at very low cost. This is a trend we are committed to promote through the Citizen Cyberscience Centre."

International computer manufacturers like IBM and HP have contributed to Citizen Cyberscience Centre projects including UNOSAT. Using data from space agencies and satellite operators around the world, UNOSAT can produce maps for humanitarian applications such as damage assessment or monitoring deforestation. The project relies on 'volunteer thinking' where participants actively analyse imagery and their results are compared.

The Citizen Cyberscience Centre is a partnership between CERN, the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) and the University of Geneva. The UK Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) manages the UK subscription to CERN and, using its e-science expertise, runs one of the 10 international Tier-1 centres taking data from the LHC and making it available to researchers around the world. µ


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