Cern taps home PCs for virtual atom smashing


Crunchy Cat
Jun 1, 2006
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Cern has launched a virtual atom-smasher for home computers, which allows people to contribute to fundamental physics research from the Large Hadron Collider.

LHC@home 2.0, which officially opened in public beta on Monday, provides a way for volunteers to donate spare computing power from their PCs and laptops to simulate particle smashes like those that occur inside the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). It is the first distributed computing project to use virtual machines on volunteers' computers, according to Cern scientist Ben Segal.

"Simulations run in a virtual machine on a client PC," said Segal, the chief technology officer for LHC@home 2.0. "Jobs are fed in from Cern, from outside, and pulled back in. What's new is using virtual machines [in distributed computing] — that's never been done before."
To participate, people download open-source virtualisation software. The first project to be conducted under the public beta is Test4Theory, which already has 2,000 users from the limited trial of the platform, according to Segal. The project is hoping to get over 50,000 volunteers eventually.

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