Want to do your bit for science? LHC@home

What on earth is LHC@home?

LHC@home stands for Large Hadron Collider at home. LHC@home is a new project involving your PC and the Large Hadron Collider. But why do they need your PC?

Too much data

Basically, the Large Hadron Collider throws particles around a 27km tunnel underneath the Swiss Alps and then smashes them into each other. The process is much more complicated than that, but you get the idea.

All this creates astronomical amounts of data, far too much for the projects computers to cope with. So how are the scientists ever going to make sense of the data they have gathered? The answer: you.

LHC@home 2.0

Way back in 2004 there was the idea to use the computing power of willing members of the public, to help analyse the data collected from the collider. This project was called LHC@home. To say the least, it didn’t really work out as planned, which is why project LHC@home 2.0 is now underway.


LHC@home 2.0 is an improved and updated version of LHC@home. Home computers are now much more powerful than in 2004 meaning that they are more likely to be able to cope with the complexity of simulating highly complex particle collisions.

The public aren’t going to be doing all the work, the Large Hadron Collider has it’s own massive supercomputer network, however by harnessing the spare capacity on (hopefully soon to be) millions of peoples home PC’s worldwide, then data can be analysed much faster.

SETI@home

LHC@home isn’t the first project of it’s kind however. SETI@home is another project which users can get involved in. All you do is install a screen saver and then when you are not using your PC, it starts to help in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence!

SETI@home screen saver

The SETI@home project screen saver

Do your bit for science!

Why not do your bit for science and offer your PC to help the LHC@home or SETI@home project?

Desktop Computers Destined for the Scrapheap?

The IBM Personal Computer (PC) was thirty years old last Friday, and according to those in the know, it might not be around for much longer. A blog post by Dr Mark Dean, one of IBM’s longest serving and most respected computer designers (who helped build the classic IBM 5150) has been making big waves across the technology sector after he claimed that the PC was heading in the same direction as vinyl records and the typewriter, light bulbs and the vacuum tube.

Dr Dean points out that PC’s and cheap laptops have had their time and place but that now they have helped to create a world which needs a new type of device depending on use and form.

Claiming that he himself has moved beyond the PC and only works on a tablet, he notes that PC’s will still be around a while longer but that “they’re no longer at the leading edge of computing.”

He goes on to say that it will not only be tablets and phones that cause the demise of PC’s but also a change of mindset about the place of computing in society and the progress of man. Instead of being about computing they are now a way of facilitating innovation not on the devices themselves, but “in the social spaces between them, where people and ideas meet and interact.”

When IBM released the 5150 in 1981 it soon set the standard for how PC’s were to look and operate. The computer, which had a massive 16k of ram and cost more than $1,500 was one of the computers that began the ‘PC Era’, that revolutionized the way we work and live.

An IBM 5150 PC

An IBM Personal Computer (IBM 5150)

According to Dean, such a revolution is also underway once again. He is not alone – in another blog about the 30th anniversary of the PC, Microsoft’s Frank Shaw argued that the proliferation of tablets, phones and other such devices was the beginning of a new ‘PC Plus Era’, if not necessarily an indication of the end of the PC and traditional computer devices.

So what do you think? Are you ready to ditch that PC just yet?

Technology and immigration

I find myself in Boston in the US today, after a long couple of flights. Milan to Dublin wasn’t long but I only had an hour for the connection in Dublin, and in Milan they could not print my boarding cards so I had to go through a sort of check in process again – and it took ages.

First I queued up for 20 minutes to get my boarding card, no problem. Than I had to go through US clearance, new to me, but do what the man says when at the airport I always say. An incredibly long and arduous process of form filling in a hurry, through the body scanner, fingerprints, mug shot, another body scanner without shoes, constant race against time, very stressful (with 2 small children) and finally to the plane 2 minutes before leaving. Oh but it didn’t leave. We had to wait for the other late arrivers to get US clearance, so we waited 45 minutes on a full Airbus for the last few people.

A flexible border?

Something struck me at the time, the security personnel were all American and the stars and stripes were everywhere. Then the strangest thing. We arrived in Boston and we didn’t have to clear customs or show our passports! In fact we came in through the domestic arrivals terminal and the person waiting for us was in the wrong place.

Then it struck me, we had come on a domestic flight over the Atlantic. The US border has moved, it now takes in part of Dublin airport!

The technology was incredible, I had to identify my bags on a photo as they were being loaded onto the plane, and they have all the information they need about me.

But just because the possibility exists and technological advancements mean that the border can move and information can be sent in real time to the rightful authorities does a state (the most powerful state in the world) have the right to use it in this way? And what about the political implications? I suspect that the Tajikistan government would find themselves in difficulty during the negotiation process if they wanted to enforce a similar line.

Rule Britannia, the waves maybe but certainly not the skies!

Technology and immigration