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CERN Accelerating science

CERN 60 Public Computing Challenge: Completed

by Panos Charitos

As part of the celebrations for Organisation's 60th anniversary, Citizen Cyberlab and CERN launched the CERN 60 Public Computing Challenge, which was completed on Saturday 20 December, with the aim of testing a new browser-based approach to volunteer computing.

CERN physicists often use event generators to simulate particle collisions and test their theories. Employing Markov-Chain Monte Carlo methods, this sophisticated software encapsulates the most detailed understanding of high-energy interactions. However, running high precision simulations is an extremely demanding, computing-intensive task. To overcome this difficulty, volunteers were recruited  and asked to help run simulations at their homes by contributing the spare processing capacity of their computers.

Thousands of volunteers from all around the world simulated more than 19 billion particle collisions in the LHC and other accelerators, and provided hours of processing power to the project. The data will be used to develop an interactive educational game platform that will allow volunteers to tune the Monte Carlo QCD models. More than half of the necessary data were collected during the twelve days of the Challenge, while user feedback helped the developers make considerable improvements to the software.

The organizers commented: “Thanks to all of you who provided detailed feedback in the forum, we’ve also been able to fix quite a few bugs with the software, making it easier to install and run. Some of you went all out to help, providing hundreds of hours of processing power.” Following the end of the Challenge, the organizers created a “volunteer name cloud” as well as a top-ten ranking of the most active users to thank everyone involved for their contribution.

A similar challenge is planned for next year that will also take into account the lessons learned from  this event. The organizers would like to get your feedback and find out your thoughts on what you what have learned from participating in this challenge: about science, about technology or about anything else. You can contact them at Stay tuned for updates.

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