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iSGTW Links of the week: The latest on the Large Hadron Collider

Links of the week - The latest on the Large Hadron Collider


The LHC project is the first large-scale scientific endeavor to depend on the success of grid computing for its own success.
Screen shot courtesy of US/LHC

The latest on the Large Hadron Collider-which is set to become the world's most powerful particle accelerator when it starts up in 2008-is increasingly available in living rooms around the planet.

LHC news, updates and resources are now available from an international trio of Web sites produced by CERN, the UK and the most recent, released last month by the U.S.

You can also track the progress of the project using LHC milestones.

Coming to proton-crunch time

For more than a decade, an international team of thousands of scientists, engineers, technicians and students has been designing, constructing and assembling the 27-kilometer-long LHC and the four huge experiments it will host.

Alongside this effort, a slightly smaller, but no less dedicated, team of computer scientists and computing-savvy physicists has been developing the Worldwide LHC Computing Grid: a planet-wide distributed computing system designed to manage the data that the LHC will produce.

The LHC project is the first large-scale scientific endeavor to depend on the success of grid computing for its own success.

From construction to final preparation

Construction of the LHC project is nearing completion, with parts of the collider already cooled to temperatures lower than outer space in preparation for accelerating proton beams.

One hundred meters underground, the four experiments-ALICE, ATLAS, CMS and LHCb-have largely been assembled, and the focus of physicists has shifted from construction to testing of the incredibly complex detector systems. Final preparations have begun for the start of data analysis.

In tandem, the "construction" phase of the Worldwide LHC Computing Grid is winding down as scientists begin to focus more on operations. This massive computing grid includes more than 130 computing centers around the world and uses the grid software and infrastructure of the Enabling Grids for E-sciencE and Open Science Grid projects.

"In the last year, as people see data coming, users have concentrated on testing the full experiment computing systems," said CERN's Les Robertson, leader of the LHC computing grid project. "Accounted LHC computing jobs are averaging 100,000 per day, and that will increase two to three times when the LHC starts running. We also have to ramp up the computing capacity by three to four times before next spring."

The next major computing test will come in February, when the entire computing system-from collection of data at all four experiments to analysis by scientists worldwide-will take place. Researchers are also working to improve the reliability of the grid for the LHC.

"The system will be really exercised for 12 months each year," adds Robertson. "Computing carries on even when the collider shuts down for maintenance; in fact it's more important during those periods."

The LHC's very-high-energy proton collisions are expected to yield extraordinary discoveries about the nature of the physical universe; discoveries that can only be made possible through grid computing on a global scale.

- Katie Yurkewicz, U.S. LHC Communications

Katie Yurkewicz was the first editor-in-chief of iSGTW, publishing our very first issue on 16 November 2006.

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