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CERN, the Big Bang and Impact On the IT Industry 169

whencanistop writes "ComputerWeekly have put together a nice short guide (with lots of links) of what is going on at CERN. They've got a nice slant though on what this big bang experiment is going to mean for the IT Industry. Interesting slant on the world's largest grid and the database clustering technology that they are using. They have also picked up on the amusing rap video by CERN's scientists that has been wandering around YouTube."
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CERN, the Big Bang and Impact On the IT Industry

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  • by David Gerard ( 12369 ) <(ku.oc.draregdivad) (ta) (todhsals)> on Thursday September 11, 2008 @09:32AM (#24961011) Homepage

    Mad scientists are way too nice and sweet-natured these days. We need more evil geniuses []. Who'll do things like run the Large Hardon Collider on Vista [].

    (Okay, that's too evil. They can run it on Google Chrome.)

    • by Geoffrey.landis ( 926948 ) on Thursday September 11, 2008 @09:48AM (#24961239) Homepage
      The Register's coverage of the LHC is a lot more, well, entertaining than the coverage by other newspapers. Same news, but a little more energy in the presentation...

      Botanist sues to stop CERN hurling Earth into parallel universe []

      Boffinry bitchslap brouhaha: Higgs and Hawking head to head [].

      ...and they also answer important questions, like So, what's the velocity of a sheep in a vacuum? Plus, the size of Wales in cubic furlongs []

      ...anyway, getting back on topic, they also tell us, in Today is not Hadron Collider Day [],
      "Only a year or more from now will the colliding protons be disintegrated with sufficient violence to produce the various treats we have been promised. Strangely perhaps, by then it seems a racing cert that the broadcasters will all have gone home, and the scribblers will mostly have ceased to file copy. Once the insane laughs begin to truly ring out in the LHC's underground caverns, once the mad scientists wipe the foam from their lips, roll up their sleeves, lock and load their outrageous particle guns and really start to show what they can do, the chances are that nobody will be watching.
      "But there will be at least one exception. The Reg hereby pledges to stay on the story, bringing you all the humonguous subterranean cavern magno-doughnut beam cannon news hot off the wires - perhaps with a garnish of hysterical rip-in-the-very-fabric-of-spacetime dimension portal angle here and there. As long as there's a universe to report from, we will continue to follow the Quest for the Big Answers (TM)"

      • I love The Register. My favorite part...

        That would be bad: but even if the LHC guys manage to avoid it, there are other ways in which their meddling might destroy the world.

        A particularly violent game of proton billiards, for instance, of the very sort the LHC's superpowered seven trillion electron-volt atomic cues are designed to play, might lead to all sorts of trouble. Quarks might get mixed up into "negatively-charged strangelets" which would turn everything else they touched into strangelets as well. T

        • What is unique about the LHC is not the energies of the collisions. It is the number and the ability to observe the results.

          Much higher energy collisions are taking place in the upper atmosphere all the time. If they were going to create a black hole we would already be gonners.

          This is all the fault of the CERN spinmeisters talking about recreating the Big Bang. But then again I guess you need spin to get the money to do that type of experiment.

      • by PPH ( 736903 )
        After reading the article about the Hawaiian botanist's suit to stop the LHC, I think I now know who inherited Don Ho's stash.
      • by dogdick ( 1290032 ) on Thursday September 11, 2008 @02:43PM (#24966567)
        I was listening to a radio show where they were interviewing one of the scientists from LHC and they asked about destroying the world. The host asked something to the effect of "what could go wrong that would end up destroying the world?" The scientist responded with, "nothing would go wrong. It's an experiment, that would just be the outcome."

        Im curious what its like to have to walk around with balls that huge everyday.
    • I'm not looking forward to being sucked into the Black Space of Death.
    • by GweeDo ( 127172 ) on Thursday September 11, 2008 @10:32AM (#24961935) Homepage

      Do you want to destroy the world?
      -ACCEPT- -DENY-

    • by sorak ( 246725 )

      Mad scientists are way too nice and sweet-natured these days. We need more evil geniuses []. Who'll do things like run the Large Hardon Collider on Vista [].

      Is that why the world hasn't ended yet? Is the LHC still waiting for someone to click "Unblock"?

  • What a sweet posting that would be. "OK people, we need another Terawatt of power, let's kick in the batteries!"
    • Re:Sys Admin at CERN (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Gromius ( 677157 ) on Thursday September 11, 2008 @09:50AM (#24961261)
      trust me its not fun. Physicists are demanding, require unreasonable ungodly amounts of storage and computing power and will do whater the hell they like with it, usally fecking up the system in new and interesting ways. Even the grid isnt enough, we could use more cpu. I'm a physicist at cern (posting from the CMS control room, was there yestarday, twas exciting) and I wouldnt want to be my sys admin ;)

      Incidently offtopic, the LHC is down at the moment and has been all day. Apparently its something about a lost patrol.
      • by David Gerard ( 12369 ) <(ku.oc.draregdivad) (ta) (todhsals)> on Thursday September 11, 2008 @10:04AM (#24961493) Homepage

        And sysadminning for scientists is a goddamn nightmare. I'd just like you to imagine expert Fortran programmers who can't actually work a computer. And are way smarter than you in every way except ones that involve communicating with humans.

      • Re:Sys Admin at CERN (Score:5, Informative)

        by Tsunayoshi ( 789351 ) <> on Thursday September 11, 2008 @10:13AM (#24961637) Journal

        I concur...where I work our 5 man unix team supports about 400 engineers of various types (mechanical, electrical, computer scientists, aerospace, etc.) and they are a needy little bunch.

        never want to follow the processes, always want it now, refuse to let us do any IT analysis of their computing needs, refuse to use the ticketing system.

        Frustrating to say the least.

        Another place I worked one of the VMS computer operators told me a story where she was fixing a problem for a scientist and paused for a few seconds to review what she was doing in her mind before typing in a command..the scientist looked her in the eye and told her "you just wasted 13 seconds of my time." Her response was she would have wasted his entire day if her command had taken down the cluster...

      • So did they turn up in WWII? Or have they been launched into a parallel Kazula & Klien dimension? That being said have you decided upon a nomenclature for these extra dimensions that are just laying around? Personally I like rainbows.
      • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward
        You should buy more super computer clusters.

        Disclaimer: I may work for a company who already built some of the clusters at CERN...
      • Apparently its something about a lost patrol.

        Maybe the ninjas have infiltrated.

        Back on topic, the job of a sysadmin is never easy. There's a very little difference between developers and scientists, the big being that developers tend to know what they're doing so that they don't create small fuck ups, but since they know what they're doing, they end up creating big ones when it does happen. Developers are equally as demanding resource-wise, especially doing database development.

      • "and I wouldnt want to be my sys admin ;)"

        I'm sure the feeling is mutual.

      • Apparently its something about a lost patrol.

        They're not lost. They're just superheroes now and you don't recognize them due to their colorful skin-tight outfits.

  • Terrabytes (Score:5, Funny)

    by pablomme ( 1270790 ) on Thursday September 11, 2008 @09:36AM (#24961049)

    a massive Linux-based storage system supplying many terrabytes of disk storage

    Clearly the effect of being buried 100m underground.

    • Maybe we should call it the wine-cellar effect. At any rate, I find it surprising that they're only using one storage system, and only "many" terabytes after considering it creates 15PB per year [], unless "terrabytes" are a newly named unit of measure.
      • Not that surprising, given that in the long run it's only temporary. Once that data has been distributed, had multiple redundant backups made and cataloged, it will be wiped.

        It is very much a way station - just because data will initially get dumped there doesn't mean it's going to live there very long.

        Im also sceptical and feel that the use of terabytes is largely to keep the article(s) understandable to non geeks, and that the actual storage capacity is probably in the PB range anyway.

    • -ducks-And the trolls only come out at night-runs-
  • geek viagra (Score:5, Funny)

    by einer ( 459199 ) on Thursday September 11, 2008 @09:37AM (#24961071) Journal

    10 Gigabit Wan

    I'll be in my bunk

  • Excellent rap! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by $RANDOMLUSER ( 804576 ) on Thursday September 11, 2008 @09:40AM (#24961111)
    The video is too funny - and very well done. Send a link to your kids and they'll finally understand what CERN and LHC do. Maybe we should do more science education like this.
    • My kids were dancing around the room doing the "funky physicist".
    • "Maybe we should do more science education like this."

      No, we should not.

    • The video is too funny - and very well done. Send a link to your kids and they'll finally understand what CERN and LHC do.

      I got a kick out of it myself.

      Maybe we should do more science education like this.

      My first thought, well one of the first thoughts, was that music videos like the Large Hadron Rap could encourage youngsters to go into science. But the videos would have to come fast and furiously. Otherwise they would get bored.


  • They've got a nice slant though on what this big bang experiment is going to mean for the IT Industry.

    Here's the short, short version: NOTHING.
    Yes, there are lots of computers in use, but is there anything particularly unusual going on here or an brand new way of organizing IT? No? OK, then.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by David Gerard ( 12369 )

      Er, yes there is - goddamn gigafirehoses of data coming out the damn thing and all needing to be saved for later scrutiny.

      • But how exactly does this impact the IT industry? My company will need to upgrade its backup systems soon. This does not translate into new technology for IT as a whole. CERN = my company * 10^9, but are new technologies coming out of this?

        • by David Gerard ( 12369 ) <(ku.oc.draregdivad) (ta) (todhsals)> on Thursday September 11, 2008 @10:06AM (#24961513) Homepage

          It'll certainly result in new technologies for dealing with this stuff becoming cheaper. It's the people who have to do goddamn ridiculous things this year and have billions lying around to do so who push things forward for us cheapskates.

          • That is fine. But when I read an article about what CERN will do for IT, I expect there to be some specific improvements. Not simply "well, it has some really big challenges, so I suppose something will come as a result".

            • Well, that's pretty much their answer when people ask what the heck's the practical use of spending billions to smash protons together ;-)

              • Ya know what? I can accept that. We know that this is theoretical physics. Who would have guessed that understanding the atom would have resulted in the type of electronics breakthroughs that we take for granted today? I don't know what will come out of understanding particle physics, but I would bet a lot of money that we will see some serious breakthroughs in 30 or 40 years that will make it worthwhile.

                Now, IT isn't theoretical. If there is an article written about how IT will change because of this, then

                • by David Gerard ( 12369 ) <(ku.oc.draregdivad) (ta) (todhsals)> on Thursday September 11, 2008 @11:50AM (#24963419) Homepage

                  You'll destroy the world of IT journalism with an attitude like that!

         "Nothing happened today."
         "Nope, nothing here either."
                  networkweek: "It's Patch Tuesday ... no, we don't care either."
         "Tits! Beer! Football!"

                • by lgw ( 121541 )

                  Sadly, 30 years of string theory hasn't even yeilded any partical physics. Sometimes theoretical physics is a total waste. Still, the LHC is cool - *experimental* physics, unlike theoretical physics, is sure to teach us something. Heck, it might even teach us somethig about IT, though I share your skepticism.

    • Ahem (Score:5, Insightful)

      by clang_jangle ( 975789 ) * on Thursday September 11, 2008 @09:55AM (#24961335) Journal

      Here's the short, short version: NOTHING. Yes, there are lots of computers in use, but is there anything particularly unusual going on here or an brand new way of organizing IT? No? OK, then

      From TFA:

      Analysts have said financial firms will deal with gigabytes of data per second within the next five years. So the sorts of grid processing, networking and storage technologies that Cern is pioneering will soon become relevant to many technology users.

      I really don't get the "I'm to cool to RTFA" thing myself, I find willful ignorance kinda undesirable.

    • by arth1 ( 260657 )

      The physical properties they will prove, disprove or discover will undoubtedly find practical applications. How about being able to communicate at speeds that don't decrease rapidly with the density of the medium, like light through fiber does? Or perhaps being able to tap vacuum for power? Or the holy grail of being able to reliably create mass from energy? Or things we haven't even thought of?

      Whatever they come up with, I'm sure that the repercussions for all industries, and perhaps especially the IT

    • Just a reminder, the scientists at CERN needed a good way to share information, and the Web was the result. []

      Who knows what spin-offs might come from the LHC?

  • by eebra82 ( 907996 ) on Thursday September 11, 2008 @09:46AM (#24961207) Homepage
    Look at it this way: if they fail to find the God particle, at least they can make a really affordable subway system.
  • LHC webcam (Score:5, Funny)

    by Stroot ( 223139 ) on Thursday September 11, 2008 @09:55AM (#24961331)
  • would be more newsworthy, Especially considering that this experiment will either A. Destroy the world, B. prove the Higgs Boson and other crazy particulate theory, C. prove(disprove) the existence of....GOD D. all of the above

    Who cares about the IT angle when I could walk away from this experiment saying "See, I TOLD YOU, God doesn't exist, the Higgs Boson is your new God" ..........and then create a new religion and be rich, RICH I TELLS YA!

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Falstius ( 963333 )

      The scientific advances from the LHC won't be coming for another few years. The IT impacts are happening now. I'm sure we'll get a new news blitz when the LHC starts to actually collide particles at high energies (when it breaks Fermi Labs records in a year or so) and then yet another when the first import preliminary results come in (preliminary because it will take another year after that to accumulate the statistics for definite results).

      The LHC has been in construction for what, 15 years now? It is a

  • The other day, someone was watching a movie on his iPod Touch and walking on the road. He didn't see the black hole in front of him, and fell down. He got a glimpse of what the Big Bang was about []!

  • While I find the grid at Cern impressive with their claim that "Cern will be using one of the biggest computer grids this summer to pool the processing power of about 100,000 CPUs worldwide", I find the SETI project [] even more impressive, which according to Berkley boasts "Currently the largest distributed computing effort with over 3 million users".

    Granted, Cern claims that it processing its information at 1Gbps, I wonder how that stacks up against SETI
    • by jd ( 1658 )
      CERN (and their collaborators) use fully Open Source grid software. I've added a few of the more interesting projects to Freshmeat. Before we get all cynical, let's exploit the hell out of what they've made available.
  • Please don't mention LHC and "Impact" in the same sentence. It's bad enough that I have to worry about invisible black holes (worse than cancer! And twice as hard to cure!), but now I have to worry about giant lifeforms crashing into Antarctica.
  • What has CERN ever done for the IT industry? []

  • It means absolutely nothing for the wider IT industry. LHC Computing is engineered to distribute very large volumes of data (in the Petabytes/year range) around the world to scientists in an open and agreed upon format. It is paid for out of the science budgets of participating governments. The complementary challenges in the IT industry revolve around how to fairly distribute commercially available bandwidth and how to secure data and maintain privacy. In terms of open structure and intended use, LHC c
    • by PPH ( 736903 )

      | sed -e 's/data/p0rn/' -e 's/scientists/Slashdotters/'

      Fixed it for you. Now it makes more sense.

  • Hmmmm (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    So they want to recreate "The Big Bang".

    I have no doubts that they will learn something from this study (they'd better considering the price of this thing!)

    BUT it seems foolish to promote this study around the concept of the Big Bang when that is a HIGHLY contested theory that is statistically and conceptually almost impossible to have occurred and resulted in our current society at total random chance.

    Why don't they instead promote the study around many of the other important things they have the potential

  • If you're looking for more conversation about Storage Tank and how it compares to Quantum's StorNext product (another clustered filesystem), follow my shameless plug to my blog entry about it. Go there []. Obligatory Disclaimer: I wrote the blog entry, but don't work for Quantum, IBM, or any of their resellers or consultants.

Trap full -- please empty.