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CERN To Tap Unused Desktop Power To Help Find Higgs Boson 118

Posted by samzenpus
from the god-particle-the-home-game dept.
hypnosec writes "Research institute CERN has launched a new project to tap into the extra computing power from the public for its Large Hadron Collider atom smashing project. According to the organization, the LHC@home project will, for the first time, allow volunteers to aid in high-energy collisions of protons in CERN's Large Hadron Collider and in turn helping physicists to unravel the mysteries of the origin of the universe"
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CERN To Tap Unused Desktop Power To Help Find Higgs Boson

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  • by alex_guy_CA (748887) <alex@scBOYSENhoenfeldt.com minus berry> on Wednesday August 10, 2011 @01:35PM (#37046378) Homepage
    Am I the only one who thinks programs like this and/or folding@home and/or seti@home should be installed by the manufacture and enabled by default?
    • by cruff (171569)

      Am I the only one who thinks programs like this and/or folding@home and/or seti@home should be installed by the manufacture and enabled by default?

      Yes. How would this be any different than any other virus?

    • Re:default (Score:5, Informative)

      by piripiri (1476949) on Wednesday August 10, 2011 @01:38PM (#37046422) Journal
      *@home uses processing power. Processing power uses electricity. Electricity costs money.
    • by kermyt (99494)
      Long answer: YES!
      TLDR: no.
    • Re:default (Score:4, Insightful)

      by blair1q (305137) on Wednesday August 10, 2011 @01:41PM (#37046448) Journal

      Only if they also create a portal to the deposit window at my bank and start pumping their profits into it.

      I only work for free when I enable it.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        They already give you their profit: they further knowledge _and share it freely_. Do you think CERN is a profit-driven organization? It's funded by fees from its member states, about 1G CHF worth a year.

        • by blair1q (305137)

          You mean they give me the knowledge I paid $14 billion for them to get. Ain't no "freely" about that. And someone ended up with that $14 billion, and will get the knowledge as well. If I'm not deliberately volunteering to effort the discovery, then I want my cut of both. But if I choose, I can download the program and run it for shits 'n giggles. If that's all the value I find in it.

      • Thats why I don't run folding@home, Seti Einstein and Milky-way are non-commercial and projects that are likely target for budget cutters.

    • Installed by default, sure, as I'm sure there's some people who wouldn't mind using it that just don't know about it.
      Enabled by default? No, I'd rather the user know what they're getting into.
    • The first builder that does that will be the first builder I boycott. My CPU time, my electricity bill, my choice.

      • by geekoid (135745)

        SO I assume you are current boycotting every PC manufacturer? They all install shit on the computer...except for maybe Apple. I haven't owned an apple computer since the Apple IIc so I won't comment on whether or not the install bloatware.

    • by MarkGriz (520778)

      Do you work for Dell by any chance?

    • Only if they agree to pay my electricity bill.

    • Yeah, everyone should have to pay for the privilege to support these projects instead of just those that want to. Energy is free, after all.

      • Energy is free, after all.

        That's because energy comes from magic. And it will be even more magical when we find the Higgs-Boson! The Higgs-Boson will help us find the cure for cancer & alien life forms, so we won't need Folding or SETI @ home!

    • It probably wouldn't slow your machine down as much as the other shovelware the put on there that only add bloat.

      That said I would prefer they didn't install any of that crap and give you the OS and drivers pre-installed. Then they could give you a disk with what ever other crap they want to bundle, much like ISPs do. You get your modem and then a disk with a bunch of crap that you don't need and in my case sits in a box in my desk drawer with all the other disks of crap in case I need to look at the owne
      • by vux984 (928602)

        It probably wouldn't slow your machine down as much as the other shovelware the put on there that only add bloat.

        Probably slow your machine down a lot less actually as it tends to be fairly well written to go dormant when you are using the computer for other stuff.

        However the shovelware bloat isn't designed to run your CPU at 100% load on all cores so the actual $ cost of it in electricity is substantially lower.

      • It probably wouldn't slow your machine down as much as the other shovelware the put on there that only add bloat.

        Apart from the whole power consumption issue you'll get a very noisy computer; any program that'll keep your CPU pegged at 100%, no matter how nice the process is, will probably also keep your fan running at max rpm. On second thought, it would be a lot less invasive than a lot of other pre-installed crap which also tend to give your fans a workout.

        Your second idea would be good for consumers (and for those of us who help them) to the detriment of manufacturers, which certainly means it'll never happen. I w

    • Re:default (Score:4, Insightful)

      by vux984 (928602) on Wednesday August 10, 2011 @02:01PM (#37046702)

      Am I the only one who thinks programs like this and/or folding@home and/or seti@home should be installed by the manufacture and enabled by default?

      Those @home projects cost between roughly $3 and $30/month per unit to run depending on what equipment you are using (celeron laptop vs i7 gaming rig vs ps3 vs old pentium 4 vs SLI GPUs...) , what the electricity rates are, and whether you end up running running air conditioning more to offset the extra heat you are unknowingly generating.

      Me... I have 4 computers always on, but I live in a cooler part of Canada where the heat isn't a huge problem and the electricity is pretty cheap... but they are performance oriented hardware and it would still cost me over $25/month to run @home on all 4.

      In some American state's and several european countries electricity is triple or quadruple what I pay. And the extra heat would have to be countered by running the air conditioning more in some places. (In others it might let you run the heater less).

      But the point is, there is a very real hidden cost to this stuff, and without full disclosure of the actual cost, these projects are a bit offensive to me.

      I have no issue with someone running the software with informed consent, but the true value in dollars that is actually being contributed unwittingly on these projects is appalling.

      They are often installed by "kids" or "employees" who do not know the cost, and do not pay it. And the cost is passed on to the parent or employer who have little ability to detect it... its not like a line item on their credit card. Its just a higher kwH reading which is pretty inscrutable.

      Preinstalled and enabled by the manufacturers would be tantamount to theft. Why not just subscribe them to World of Warcraft and AOL, and then roll the monthly charges into their property taxes lump sum assessement? Its about as honest.

    • Yeah, because we don't immediately reformat the OEM windows install to blow away all the shovel-ware.

      • by Lumpy (12016)

        You don't buy Dell of HP then. as they DON'T give you a reinstall CD/DVD anymore to discourage this unpatriotic behavior.

      • Are you say that you nuke the OEM windows from your computer to install Microsoft Windows? Most OEMs don't send you a windows install anymore, you get an image of the OEM install which puts all of the shovel-ware back.

    • by gstoddart (321705)

      Am I the only one who thinks programs like this and/or folding@home and/or seti@home should be installed by the manufacture and enabled by default?

      Quite possibly ... I kind of insist that my manufacturer doesn't decide what I'm going to do with my machines and when.

      Those of us with computers in corporate or government environments would not be willing to accept this any more than a keylogger being installed by default.

    • by jensend (71114)

      Back when computers had very poor power management, that might have been borderline reasonable. But it's been almost a decade since dynamic frequency and voltage scaling became mainstream, and to do it now would be basically criminal (stealing considerable amounts of electricity for your own purposes, shortening folks' component lifespans due to higher temperature etc while you're at it).

    • by drolli (522659)

      Maybe not, but i think its a stupid idea. For 99% of the people the best would be a 1W thin client with no computational power. The computing centers will be more efficient in using the "unused" computational power.

  • That's one of the things that's awesome about F@H.
    Totally useless, yes, but they're still fun statistics. :)
  • This will prevent PCs worldwide from sleeping, thus requiring new fossil-fuel power plants to be brought online, thus accelerating global warming, thus destroying the Earth.
    I hope it's worth it.
    • by blair1q (305137)

      If we find a single Higgs Boson, it will be.

      • by arth1 (260657) on Wednesday August 10, 2011 @01:45PM (#37046512) Homepage Journal

        If we find a single Higgs Boson, it will be.

        If we find a married one, it would be even more awesome.

      • Scientists like you should be locked up.

        Finding the Higgs is not worth anything, if the planet goes bust, especially since there is no plan B, say a Mars colony or transmitting the find or our genome to aliens(like in Species: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Species_(film) [wikipedia.org] ).

      • Re:Save the Planet! (Score:4, Interesting)

        by jfengel (409917) on Wednesday August 10, 2011 @01:51PM (#37046578) Homepage Journal

        You don't really find a single Higgs boson. You can't detect the Higgs directly. You have to detect its decay processes (usually, a pair of taus or photons), which can also be produced by other processes. You find it statistically: if you get more of those pairs than is accounted for by understood processes, and if the amount of the excess corresponds to the mount of excesses you'd expect from the Higgs, AND if the machine is running at an energy that you'd expect to produce the Higgs, you get to call it a detection.

        So you can count up how many Higgs events you thought there were, and then repeat the experiments focusing on the energy range you think the Higgs has. So, it's not quite the "eureka" moment you might hope for, but it's good enough to confirm the Standard Model.

        Whether all of that was really "worth it"... well, that's something else altogether.

        • You don't really find a single Higgs boson. You can't detect the Higgs directly. You have to detect its decay processes (usually, a pair of taus or photons), which can also be produced by other processes. You find it statistically: if you get more of those pairs than is accounted for by understood processes, and if the amount of the excess corresponds to the mount of excesses you'd expect from the Higgs, AND if the machine is running at an energy that you'd expect to produce the Higgs, you get to call it a detection.

          So you can count up how many Higgs events you thought there were, and then repeat the experiments focusing on the energy range you think the Higgs has. So, it's not quite the "eureka" moment you might hope for, but it's good enough to confirm the Standard Model.

          Whether all of that was really "worth it"... well, that's something else altogether.

          So what is the actual benefit in finding this theorized particle? So we "find" it by actually only seeing it's after effects, what then? What practical application will it serve or will it just be a stepping stone to finding the next sub atomic particle or some answer to an abstract theory? Wikipedia didn't help much as I'm a typical layman and only took physics in college.

          • by jfengel (409917)

            The benefit from finding it is that you know that your model works. This is a particularly crucial piece of the model: it explains why mass happens. The model predicts a number of particles responsible for things like atoms holding together and neutrons occasionally decaying into protons. We found all those particles.

            It also explains why mass works, and clearly it's important to get that right. We'll know if it's right if we can find the particle. If we don't find it, we have to go back to the drawing

            • by blair1q (305137)

              It proves there's no god.

              Considering how the idea of god has fucked up tens of billions of lives, wasting hundreds of Trillions of dollars of productivity and quality of life, it's worth a couple dozen $billion to straighten that fact out.

              • by jfengel (409917)

                I don't believe in God either, but finding the Higgs is far from proof of that.

                It's yet another data point that science produces answers about how the universe came into being, and religion doesn't. There are already so many data points that the curve that fits them is obvious, but adding yet another isn't going to change the mind of anybody so fixated that they haven't already drawn it.

                The "6,000 year old universe" is an idea so misbegotten that I pronounce anybody who believes it a fool. But there are o

          • by geekoid (135745)

            Studying a particle that create the mass in the universe may allow us to control the creation of mass in the universe.

            It also confirms are current model; which is useful.

        • by blair1q (305137)

          You don't really find particles in a bubble chamber. You just see the track they took through the the medium.

          The Higgs isn't the only particle that "disappears" in a collision then "reappears" as a spray of decay products.

          Here's an example of a Kaon taking us on a short trip into mystery before turning into counter-curving Pions. [web.cern.ch]

          So I grok you.

      • by nschubach (922175)

        I'm a bit ignorant when it comes to the claims about the Higgs Boson. How would finding it make my life better? Would it's existence help us generate cheap and plentiful energy?

        • by LingNoi (1066278)

          In your life time it probably won't make your life better. Once it's has or has not been confirmed i'm sure someone in the future will find some practical use for knowing. Unfortunately we will never live long enough to find out.

    • How do PCs being on create more volcanic activity and forest fires? Oh, that's right, we're still on that 70's kick that the world is ending... Still not sure of the date? I thought not.
    • pay for by burns power co! You Nuclear friend

      • by dkf (304284)

        pay for by burns power co! You Nuclear friend

        And the Peabody Energy Corporation, a supporter of coal for a wetter, hotter tomorrow!

  • Looks good, but... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by arth1 (260657) on Wednesday August 10, 2011 @01:40PM (#37046440) Homepage Journal

    Have to use Oracle VirtualBox? Have to run with 32-bit compatibility libraries? Sorry, those are showstoppers.
    Let me run it in the sandbox of my choice, and I'll invest electricity in running this. Otherwise, no.

    • by Temkin (112574) on Wednesday August 10, 2011 @01:45PM (#37046516)

      Has to run as a privileged user... That's the show stopper for me. Clearly, someone hasn't done their homework. So I'm afraid I will not be joining.

      • by gstoddart (321705)

        Has to run as a privileged user... That's the show stopper for me.

        WTF? Why do people still write software that requires a privileged user login? You're downloading a chunk of data and performing math on it ... what do you need escalated access for?

        That's incredibly stupid.

    • by mrops (927562)

      yup, thats a bummer. In this day and age of Web 2.0 and javascript, wonder why none of these @home have a web client so even a kid can do it. Just go to a link, stay there, let the javascript do the work. No installation, nothing native, just works.

      • by arth1 (260657)

        In this day and age of Web 2.0 and javascript, wonder why none of these @home have a web client so even a kid can do it. Just go to a link, stay there, let the javascript do the work. No installation, nothing native, just works.

        Because javascript is orders of magnitude slower?

        The max bang for the buck is why I want a native 64-bit client.

      • Better yet, BOINC has already solved those issues. Strange that they aren't using it...

  • While I see that it will be running BOINC, will it be one of the CUDA/OPENCL running variants?
    • The FAQ states: Not yet. Interestingly enough, it seems to be working through a virtualbox. I'm not a BOINC regular so I don't understand why this is. Anyone care to shed some light on this?
      • by Anonymous Coward

        The page states that they make use of the CERN Scientific Linux distro and instead of making everyone install that OS they just make everyone run it in virtualbox.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Well, if you would keep reading the FAQ you'd see:

        Why do we need a virtualization application?

        This project runs very large CERN software packages with complex dependencies that cannot be easily ported to all the volunteers' operating systems (Windows, GNU/Linux and Mac OS X). For this reason, we use a virtualization solution, which enables us to run complex codes independently of your platform. Additionally, using virtualization adds an extra layer of security, as if something goes wrong in the code executi

        • by arth1 (260657)

          But why does it have to be Oracle Virtualbox?
          Those of us that already run other VMs (Xen, KVM, VMware, VirtualPC) are not welcome - why, exactly?

          As for dependencies, just bundle them and use a wrapper script at start-up to make sure that the bundled libraries and binaries get used. It's what dozens of other projects do.

  • Do they really expect that many people to take part? There is already SETI@Home, Folding@Home, and a few others I can't think of ATM. IMO Folding@home is most useful of these (huge potential medical usefulness), so they've got that down, and SETI is, well, kinda cool. I can understand if you're a huge physics buff, but I don't know too many people like that. And I'm not sure why you want to do simulations of particle collisions when you can do the real thing and get real results.
    • by GNious (953874)

      Create you own mini-black-hole @ home? Whats not to like??

    • There area a couple of other ones like GIMPS and Tiles@Home but again both of those fall into a category like LHC@Home where you are a buff and probably have a smaller following. Usually things like this get an initial following since it is new and then it falls off since people lose interest. I have run a number of the @Home projects at one time or another and I eventually discovered I can come up with a better use for the cpu cycles and electrons I pay for.
    • by jovius (974690)

      LHC@home has been around for years (They used to run simulations but the project wasn't awfully active in the construction phase).

      There are actually multitude of projects available.

      http://boinc.berkeley.edu/projects.php [berkeley.edu]

      That list doesn't include projects like http://renderfarm.fi/ [renderfarm.fi] and probably many others.

    • i'm not a huge physics buff (only did advanced high school level physics, no quantum/relativity stuff or anything), but i would probably run LHC before SETI, if only because i hope we as a race get more advanced.

      Not sure about Folding though, that seems like a very noble goal as well, although somehow intuitively i sort of expected it to turn up some significant stuff by now already

    • by Hatta (162192)

      You act like particle physics has no practical applications. It may be hard to see what the practical applications of finding the Higg's boson would be, but it's like Faraday said when asked what use electricity had. His response? "Madam, of what use is a new born child?"

      • by Baloroth (2370816)
        I'm more questioning if the effort put into designing this program will be worth the return based on the number of people who actually use it. I love physics, but I know lots of people don't. If it's hard to see the practical usage, a lot of people won't dedicate their CPU time to it. I might, as might some on /., but I can't imagine many beyond that will. Maybe that's all they need.
  • This should be a seriously distant second to any similar projects in the medical sector (i.e., Folding@Home). Yes, this stuff could result in things like superconductors or the holy grail of sustainable power-producing nuclear fusion. Maybe. Someday. A far distant third place would be helping to find alien civilizations (Don Henley: "They're not here, they're not coming").
    • Because of science like this, we had knowledge about quantum physics and we knew what electrons are and how they work. Because of that we have transistors and computers. Because of computers we have modern medical equipment and Folding@Home.

      Also "holy grail of sustainable power-producing nuclear fusion" could help getting rid of air pollution and save 2 million people every year[1].

      1) http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/oct2006/2006-10-06-01.html [ens-newswire.com]

    • by geekoid (135745)

      "There not here, there not coming" how flawed.

  • massive power afforded to it by desktops across the globe, CERN may finally break-down and ask its wife, who will most certainly know where the higgs boson was the last time she saw it in multidimensional timespace.
  • That would be pretty awesome to see. Hopefully they'll use one of those Compaq computers from the late 80's. They had a steel chassis and were heavy as hell. Throw one in with an Osborne Luggable. If you accelerate those bad boys to the speed of light & smash 'em together, any spare Higgs Bosons stuck inside will be sure to come flying out.

    • by c6gunner (950153)

      Hopefully they'll use one of those Compaq computers from the late 80's. They had a steel chassis and were heavy as hell. Throw one in with an Osborne Luggable. If you accelerate those bad boys to the speed of light & smash 'em together, any spare Higgs Bosons stuck inside will be sure to come flying out.

      They'll come flying out alright. Probably land somewhere in texas. Along with whatever parts of the LHC don't end up in China or Australia.

  • I always find it funny that the same folks who are advocating stuff like this are also advocating using less power at home. I think organizations that are going to ask folks to engage in distributed computing projects should be required to meed some equivalent carbon footprint goals (carbon credits or whatever) as they would if they were doing the same level of processing in their own data center.
  • in the stove!

    HO HO! It's hidin' in the stove, eh?

  • They're just SAYING they're looking for the Higgs. But what they're actually trying to do is corner the world BitCoin market! With the U.S's Credit Rating being downgraded they're anticipating BitCoin becoming the new international currency standard.

  • So, I went through and installed all the software, click add project, LHC@home. Lo and behold:

    "This project is not currently accepting new accounts. You can add it only if you have an account."

    I feel alienated. How does this help ... anyone? Weird. Uninstalled.

    • I already had VirtualBox 4.1.0 installed, so I installed the Boinc client, attached to http://boinc01.cern.ch/test4theory [boinc01.cern.ch] and created an account without problem - I haven't done any @home projects since some SETI units about 10 years ago.

      The Boinc client spent several minutes downloading a linux virtual machine (boinc_vm) for VirtualBox, which booted automagically. Then boinc_vm started "..fetching input files for job..." for a minute, "started a child process", downloaded some more data, and started burnin

  • Of course this question would probably be better directed to one of the CERN folks, but...

    Apparently the apps which actually do the work use a Scientific Linux base system with a bunch of software installed, and they don't want to try to port this whole stack so they're having people use VirtualBox and a VM image. But what about people who are already using Scientific Linux, people who'd be willing to run SL, or people who would be interested in dedicating a machine to the task? Wouldn't the speedups involv

  • I bet they could find it easy with a super-powerful Higgs-Boson powered quantum computer.

  • I'd love to help them out (as I look at 6 cores sitting idle right now), but I just won't do VirtualBox.

  • I used to run a couple of the distributed computing programs years back, but I don't anymore. The main reason is that computers have advanced. 10 years ago, a computer sitting idle and a computer under a heavy work load used almost the same amount of power. Therefore, as long as your were going to leave the computer on anyway, it didn't hurt to run one of these programs. However, newer CPUs use much less power when they are idle compared to running a heavy work load. I wish CERN the best of luck, but it see

  • I mean, how much did this thing cost? $9 billion? And it was way over budget. They couldn't add one or two supercomputers?

    Plus, it's an ugly experiment to begin with. Just throwing more and more energy at it to see if there might be a glimpse of a particle that might or might not exist. And if we don't find it, we won't even know for sure it doesn't exist. There's no beauty in it.

C'est magnifique, mais ce n'est pas l'Informatique. -- Bosquet [on seeing the IBM 4341]

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