Particle smasher gets a super-brain

Hazel Muir in New Scientist:

Cern_luftbildSometime in 2007, physicists are going to come closest to seeing what the universe was like a split-second after the big bang. Inside a 27-kilometre-long circular tunnel that straddles the border of France and Switzerland 100 metres underground, the Large Hadron Collider will push protons to almost the speed of light and smash them head-on at energies never before created on Earth.

But it will be a messy business. The torrent of information gushing forth from the LHC each year will be enough to fill a stack of CDs three times as high as Mount Everest. To make sense of it will require some 100,000 of today’s most powerful PCs, so it is little wonder that CERN – the European centre for particle physics near Geneva that is building the collider – is co-opting a worldwide “grid” of computers to help store and analyse the data. Physicists hope that this collective computing power will help them spot exotic new particles, including the elusive Higgs boson, and validate theories that aim to unite three of the four fundamental forces of nature.

More here.