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New supercomputer helps Royal Holloway Physicists analyse key LHC data

Posted on 11/08/2011

Powerful computers are wired together to form a cluster

Researchers at the Centre for Particle Physics at Royal Holloway, University of London have just deployed the ‘Rutherford’ cluster, a vast new data store and lightening-fast computers, to analyse information from the world’s biggest scientific experiment.

CERN’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC) continues to excel itself, producing huge quantities of extremely high energy proton-proton collisions that help physicists move closer to the discovery of the elusive Higgs particle.

Between their birth at the LHC and the publication of results, the data have been ensconced in cool, dark computer rooms around the world where they are scrutinised, sifted and searched by the 3000-strong international ATLAS collaboration.

Some of the data reach computers at Royal Holloway where Dr Simon George, Mr Govind Songara, Dr Pedro Teixeira-Dias and Mr Barry Green will use the latest computing technology to analyse the data.

The LHC recreates in miniature the conditions that existed within a billionth of a second after the ‘big bang’ at the birth of the universe. Physicists are combing the LHC data for signs of the elusive Higgs particle; the missing piece of the puzzle that explains the world of tiny subatomic particles and the early evolution of the universe. The LHC produces so much data that scientists around the world need to pool their collective computing power to analyse it. This idea became the LHC ‘Grid’, which Royal Holloway is proud to be part of and in July alone, 200 million proton-proton collision events were analysed using the College’s computers.

Thanks to a combined investment of quarter of a million pounds from Royal Holloway and GridPP|, the new Rutherford cluster has roughly twice as much computing power and storage as its predecessor. Sitting in the College’s state-of-the-art computer centre at Huntersdale, the design, procurement and installation has been a fruitful collaboration between Royal Holloway’s Centre for Particle Physics, the College’s central IT service, well known IT vendor Dell and systems integrator Alces. At the same time the internet connection to the College was upgraded in collaboration with JANET so data can be downloaded faster.

Dr Simon George said: “It’s impressive to see so much data now being analysed so quickly.We’re excited that this will help to bring us closer to eagerly anticipated discoveries like the Higgs particle.”

The cluster is named after the celebrated British physicist Ernest Rutherford, the father of nuclear and particle physics


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