14 August 2011
The folks at the Large Hadron Collider have put together a project that uses idle home computers, to simulate particle collisions, in an effort to learn more about the fundamental particles the make up our world. The initial request for volunteers was overwhelming and saturated their servers, but they will be adding more as soon as they can work it out. If you’re interested go here .
This isnt’ the first project of its kind to use thousands of computers to do science, and some of my favourites are climateprediciton.net at Oxford, and a more hands on project to transcribe old ship weather observations from the time of the first world war. This project has very high value to the climate science community. (Hat tip to Joe Witte at Goddard for this).
I think that all of these would make a great project for secondary schools and even elementary school science classrooms. All of these sites are designed so that the participants can chart their progress and learn about what their computer time is doing. Wouldn’t it be great if every science classroom in North America was participating in these projects!
An interesting side note is that when papers are published on these projects, it is scientific standard practice to have the names of all those involved in the study listed on the paper. There have been published journal papers that have page after page of authors at the top of the abstract! If only we could run a real-time non-hydrostatic ocean coupled 1 km numerical weather prediction model using these methods!
These projects are made possible by BOINC ,which stands for Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing. There are a bunch of other BOINC projects underway and you can see them on the project site.
I love it!