August 12th, 2010 by admin

Articles in the technology press say that researchers have solved the age-old question of the minimum number of moves needed to unscramble a Rubik’s Cube.

The answer?

21 or less.

Which sounds an awful lot like the answer to Douglas Adams’ science fiction series “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” in which the answer to life, the universe and everything is . . . 42.


One thing we’re curious about is HOW the researchers came up with the answer. According to a BBC interview with one of the researchers, “. . . the team had planned to process the batches on a supercomputer. ‘Then Google stepped forward and offered to run the computation,’ he said. ‘We still don’t know what machinery they used.’

And in both its US and UK editions, Wired said that Google does not respond to hardware questions.

Cloud? Cluster? Grid?

What do you think?

Some information about the team’s thinking process can be found here. 

Talk to the computer gurus, this Wednesday

July 12th, 2010 by admin

Are you a researcher, asking yourself “What is the difference between grid computing, supercomputing, cloud computing, volunteer computing and everything else? How do I know what is the right tool to use for my work?”  If so, then attend the upcoming online discussion hosted by iSGTW — the weekly online computing magazine sponsored by Open Science Grid and the European Grid Initiative — called  “Roundtable Q&A: Choose and use the right computing tool for your research, with feedback from the experts.”

This LiveChat will be held at 9:30am Chicago time (Fermilab)/4:30pm Geneva time (CERN) on Wednesday, July 14, and will feature experts who will answer your questions in real time, for one hour, using the LiveChat tool from CoverItLive.

Afterwards, anyone who was not able to get on the LiveChat, or who had additional questions, can go to our ‘Not-Quite-So-Live Followup’ on the iSGTW section of the Nature Networks Questions & Answers and email in their brief questions, which our experts promise to answer sometime each day during the week after from July 14 to July 21. The email portion will start immediately after the LiveChat ends.

Some of our experts include Steven Newhouse of the newly formed, multi-million euro “European Grid Initiative;” Marc-Elian Begin of Stratus Lab (speaking on cloud computing); Vangelis Floros of GRNet (grids from the user’s perspective); Phillip Blood of the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center; Carl Christenson of Stanford University (speaking on volunteer computing); and Dan Fraser of Open Science Grid. For more about our experts, go here.

You can join in at this link on Wednesday, July 14 at the start time. Meanwhile, you can learn more about the LiveChat software at these FAQs.

Image above courtesy of brainloc.

February 9th, 2010 by admin

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania did a study of what articles people tend to forward, and why.

In an nutshell, they tend to forward stories that are positive, unexpected items, in-depth, and longer rather than shorter.

They also tend to be about science.

Which is surprising, as I’d have thought it would be celebrity gossip stuff. It sort of defied expectations.

Or, as the principal investigator put it: “Science kept doing better than we expected . . . We anticipated that people would share articles with practical information about health or gadgets, and they did, but they also sent articles about paleontology and cosmology. You’d see articles shooting up the list that were about the optics of deer vision.”

More is at “Will You Be E-Mailing This Column? It’s Awesome.”

Apple: a counter opinion

January 29th, 2010 by admin

In the midst of all the hype back-and-forth about the pluses and minuses of the new iPad, here’s a clever little opinion piece from a newspaper that I read on the plane back from the Enabling Grids for E-sciencE conference in Barcelona. It’s from a few months ago, but still relevant. If nothing else, it certainly brought a smile to my face — despite the repeatedly delayed flight and the trio of crying babies in the seats around me:

“I don’t care if Mac stuff is cool. I don’t care if every Mac product comes equipped with a magic button on the side that causes it to piddle gold coins and resurrect the dead and make holographic unicorns dance inside your head. I’m not buying one, so shut up and go home. Go back to your house. I know, you’ve got an iHouse. The walls are brushed aluminum. There’s a glowing Apple logo on the roof. And you love it there. You absolute MONSTER.”

The rest can be found at the UK newspaper “The Guardian.”

LHC science video from Jesse Dylan?

January 26th, 2010 by admin

Okay, so here’s test number two, in which I try to hyperlink.  Here goes:

According to an article in today’s “New York Times,” Jesse Dylan — seen with his father, folksinger Bob Dylan, in the 1968 photo above — is in the final stages of a film about the Large Hadron Collider (LHC).

Has anyone heard anything about this? Is it a documentary, a short, a feature?

The Times’ piece only mentions it in passing, saying that Jesse Dylan screened a preview copy in Los Angeles a few days ago, in front of a variety of physicists, including some from CERN who were the driving force behind the LHC.

An article in The Wall Street Journal entitled “Jesse Dylan Experiments With Science; an accomplished director turns his camera on medical research” says that the younger Dylan has done a number of movies, ranging from “American Wedding” to rock videos with Elvis Costello, along with science documentaries — which previously focused on health.

The science documentaries, say the Journal, “present the latest information on a range of diseases in an easy-to-understand, aesthetically appealing way.”

“Mr. Costello, who’s seen Mr. Dylan’s recent science videos, said he makes them ‘with the same ruthlessness you need trying to follow the rhythm of a song.’ As for Mr. Dylan, he sees a further connection, realizing as he worked on the science-video projects that there is — just like in music — ‘lyricism and poetry to science.’ ”

Hope to find out more about it!

My very first post

January 20th, 2010 by admin

This is my very first post on my new blog, so I’ll start with a story I wrote from here in Geneva on November 20. I’m the editor of a magazine put out by CERN (motto: No black holes yet!)

Midnight in the LHC control room

Today, this column honors . . .  the Twitter feed at CERN, which allowed us to follow the progress of the Large Hadron Collider restart from the comfort of home on an extremely dark and foggy evening, when the beam was captured at close to midnight, Geneva time. (Apparently, we weren’t the only ones paying attention to this event; the LHC “tweets” were one of the top five most popular items in Twitter-land.)

You could sense the building excitement, as the posts came in more and more frequently.  See the sequence below. (The time stamps are approximate.)

2 hours ago
“Just one sector to go now!”

2 hours ago
“We have completed the ring!”

1.5 hours ago
“We will start injecting the anticlockwise beam in the second ring and then go step–by–step again. New photos will soon be available.”

1.25 hours ago
“Teams are working to improve beam quality before injecting in the anticlockwise direction. Beam 1 has made several turns around the LHC.”

1.25 hours ago
“New photos available. They include the very first moments of the completion of the first circle.”

1 hour ago
“Beam 1 has made more than 500 turns of the LHC. The beam orbit is improving fast.”

50 minutes ago
“Decision was made to first capture beam 1 and then go for injection of beam 2. To do so, we will soon switch on the cavities.”

45 minutes ago
“Cavities are switched on! We will wait for a good beam quality before attempting to capture it.”

30 minutes ago
“We have captured it! First circulating beam of 2009!”

25 minutes ago
“Now it goes fast: 100,000 turns!”

20 minutes ago
“10,000,000 turns!”

How tweet it is!