Monday, September 08, 2008

The Exercise of Vital Powers

This Wednesday, the largest experiment in human history fires its first proton around the racetrack. The world will not end. They've flung protons around in particle accelerators for decades. But this squeezer is the biggest yet, a circle big enough to swallow Waiheke Island.

20 European member states, approximately 2,600 full-time employees, as well as some 7,931 scientists and engineers representing 500 universities and 80 nationalities. Built by humans who have agreed to stop killing one another for long enough, it's the pragmatic United Nations.

And when the pilot physics begin in late October, the whole world will benefit from this collaboration. One hundred years ago, Ernest Rutherford split the atom. This year, humans will split the proton. By the end of the year, we will be wiser.

Imagine if Ernest Rutherford had walked up to you and asked if you'd like to help him with his work. You wouldn't have to go anywhere, no fancy equipment or training needed or, indeed, even any of your time. Are you up for it?

Well, the geeks at CERN need your help. The data spewing out of the Large Hadron Collider is going to be something huge. Over 15 billion Gigabytes of data every year. There are 300 data centres around the world in 50 countries. The biggest of these is at CERN, a server farm of 80,000 PCs.

If you would like to be a participant in the world's largest experiment and not just an observer, get on over to LHC@Home. Download the BOINC screensaver program, which maintains all the number crunching. There's even an LHC New Zealand team already up and running. Donate your PC downtime to a greater cause.