Astrophysicists Rely on Linux to Crunch Data

by Ostatic Staff - Sep. 23, 2008

There's been a lot of talk about the gigantic particle accelerator known as the Large Hadron Collider recently. Lots of people were excited about the search for the theoretical Higgs boson. A few were concerned that it would open a black hole and end life as we know it. Most were disappointed when technical issues forced the Collider's early shutdown for repairs. Few people, though, mentioned that part of the multi-billion dollar project relies heavily on Linux.

Linux Magazine has a fascinating look at how the Collider's data processing grid is powered by Scientific Linux, a derivative of Red Hat Enterprise Linux.

Author Kristian Kissling says, "Contrary to what its name implies, Scientific Linux is not a collector of research software. It is rather based on Red Hat Enterprise Linux. CERN, Fermilab and other universities and research facilities contribute to the Linux distribution’s development and adapt it to the needs of the worldwide research community." It's this custom version of Linux that astrophysicists around the world are running on computers that will crunch roughly 15 million gigabytes of data from the super-collider's various tests.

Though the collider is expected to be out of service for about two months, once it's up and running, you can donate a portion of your computer's resources to CERN's Large Hadron Collider project via the LHC@home project.