UK scientists express joy at LHC switch-on

UK scientists express joy at LHC switch-on

Summary: After the first circulation of a particle beam round the Large Hadron Collider, UK scientists told of their delight at the successful operation of the largest machine in history

TOPICS: Emerging Tech

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  • Peter Barratt is the communications chief for the Science & Technology Facilities Council (STFC), which distributes UK government funding for scientific research. He described the first beam's circulation as "fantastic".

    "We were all a bit apprehensive, but they got the first beam round in just under an hour," Barratt said. "We're now looking forward to the energy ramping up." He also added that it was "mindblowing" for particle physics to be getting the international exposure granted by coverage of the LHC.

    The STFC will continue to fund the LHC through the UK's subscription to Cern and the funding of research scientists, Barratt said. "Once we start receiving the data [from the LHC], those guys need to sit down and start analysing it," he said. "Maybe they will overturn the physics textbooks as they are at the moment — who knows?"

  • Dr David Sankey is a particle physicist at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, a research centre in Oxfordshire. "It's getting real," he said in reaction to Wednesday's successful LHC initiation. Comparing Wednesday's LHC initiation to starting an engine, he said: "This is the turnover, and it went well."

    Sankey pointed out how the 20 years of development and preparation that had gone into the LHC continued right up until recently. "This has been a long time coming," he said. "Even last week, people were working in [the CMS detector]. They were working flat out up to this deadline, and it worked."

  • One of the most important technological advances to come out of Cern's work has been its contributions to grid computing, which involves using large numbers of loosely coupled computers over a great area to share the load of handling large amounts of data. Such distributed methods are necessary for analysing the anticipated 15 petabytes of data that are expected to come out of the LHC every year.

    Imense is one company that has benefited from the UK's part of the greater grid, GridPP. A spin-off from Cambridge University, Imense has used the technology to develop its content-based image search systems, which they hope will catch on as a way to find images based on keywords, even from unannotated photographs. The company was helped in this by the STFC, which granted them use of one percent of GridPP.

    Two representatives from the company were at Wednesday's event. Dr Chris Town (left) described the LHC initiation as "exciting", noting that all sorts of non-physics applications are possible on the grid. Dr David Sinclair (right) added that projects such as the LHC "generate people with the skillset we [in companies such as Imense] need."

Topic: Emerging Tech

David Meyer

About David Meyer

David Meyer is a freelance technology journalist. He fell into journalism when he realised his musical career wouldn't pay the bills. David's main focus is on communications, as well as internet technologies, regulation and mobile devices.

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