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UK supports Cern Big Bang switch on

Antony Savvas

GridPP, the UK's major contribution to a global computing system, is about to support Cern's Large Hadron Collider (LHC) project.

Cern, Europe's premier particle physics laboratory in Switzerland, turned on the LHC today, launching cutting edge research into the nature of the universe.

Colliding particles at speeds close to the speed of light, the LHC will reach energies greater than ever achieved previously by a man made machine, as it recreates conditions existing a fraction of a second after the big bang.

Four giant experiments, ALICE, ATLAS, CMS and LHCb, will search for signs of new physics such as the Higgs particle, thought to contribute to the origin of mass.

Once the LHC is fully functional, millions of particle collisions per second will generate an estimated 15 petabytes (15,000,000 gigabytes) of data every year.

To provide enough computing to cope with the LHC information overload, close to one hundred thousand computers have been joined together in a global system called "the grid". Grids are a way of computing that allow scientists to share the storage and processing power of computers worldwide.

The GridPP project (www.gridpp.ac.uk) was created seven years ago to build and run the UK's grid for particle physics, and has been funded through a £58m grant from the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC).

A partnership of particle physicists and computer scientists, GridPP's distributed computing system has sites at 17 UK universities and research institutes, and supplies the largest national contribution to the LHC computing grid.

Professor Dave Britton of Glasgow University, the GridPP project leader, said, "The UK, through GridPP, provides 15% of all the computer resources that make up the grid for the LHC, and has been a key contributor to developing grid software, security procedures and managing the wider project."

He said, "Along with supporting the very strong physics community in the UK, GridPP's computers will also help the other 8,000 scientists in 80 countries around the world who want to analyse the data coming from the four main experiments, based around the LHC's 27km tunnel buried 100m under the French/Swiss border."


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