Speaker: Grid aids research
The Grid system is a new computing network that is making the gathering of scientific research more efficient and bringing scientific experts from different fields together, Bob Jones, project director of Enabling Grids for E-sciencE, said Friday.
"The next advance in science is going to come, not from individual scientists, but multidisciplinary teams which bring together expertise from those different disciplines," Jones said. "Having to share those infrastructures is essential to support those fields. It’s really all about how can you bring these new ways of building things together."
Grid uses software called "middleware" to enable people to analyze research data more efficiently and allows for global access to that data. Scientists can gather more precise and detailed information quicker and share it with colleagues across the globe and personal computers and labs at home, according to the EGEE Web site.
"It’s no longer the case where a researcher can work on their own in the lab with just the use of the equipment on their desktop," Jones said. "To do world-class science now, you need actual collaborations to set up and bring together the resources necessary, and of course you have a very large user community that has to analyze that data and distribute it around the world. Grids are helping to bridge that gap."
Jones is also a member of the European Organization for Nuclear Research, known as CERN for its French acronym, that was credited with inventing the World Wide Web in 1989.
The UH Department of Physics is collaborating on an atomic experiment with CERN utilizing a Grid system. A giant atomic supercollider called the Large Hadron Collider located in Geneva, Switzerland smashes particles together at super-high speeds. Six experiments going on worldwide use particle detectors to analyze the information generated by the LHC accelerator.
Professor and Chairman of the Physics Department Lawrence Pinsky is overseeing one of the particle detectors in the project A Large Ion Collider Experiment. Project ALICE analyzes collided lead ions to recreate the conditions of the universe in the first microsecond following the Big Bang, Pinsky said.
"We are members of the Collaboration Group of U.S. institutions participating in ALICE, which is known as ALICE-USA," Pinsky said. "We will actually be hiring undergraduates on our campus to work on assembling and testing some of the parts that will be shipped to Geneva, and incorporated into the detector. By understanding the behavior of matter in the earlier moments of the universe, we can maybe predict what’s going to happen in the future."
The data obtained by ALICE, the A Toroidal LHC Apparatus project, another detector experiment in Meyrin, Switzerland of which Jones is a member, and its four counterpart experiments is entered and processed into a Grid system with a large amount of results recorded.
"The amount of data that’s coming off these four experiments, given the very large number of channels – billions of channels in total – is about 15 petabytes of data," Jones said. "If you wrote it onto CDs and you started to stack those CDs up, those CDs would make a pile just about 20 kilometers tall. So you can imagine the amount of data that’s there."
Scientists studying in other fields, such as medical, earth sciences and astronomy, also use Grid to analyze their data. Jones said Grid could provide world organizations faster and more efficient simulations pertaining to natural disasters.
"Across Europe there is an international agreement between Spain, Portugal, France and Italy that they will share their aircraft to put out forest fires," Jones said. "(With Grid) they’re doing simulations of this infrastructure to find out where’s the best position to place those aircraft so that you get to those forest fires as soon as possible."
Jones said he hoped to use Grid to create a next generation World Wide Web that not only shares information but also processes it like a giant worldwide supercomputer. Currently, Grid is not a unified system as there are different types of Grids by both private enterprises and public resources that volunteer information that can be used by independent research teams or individuals. Researchers interested in joining can find more information at www.eu-egee.org.
"(Grids are) an extremely good mechanism for bringing together major resources," Jones said. "The difference between the enterprise and the public resource grids is that enterprises are using things to actually make a profit, so it’s like a company. Public resource grids – they’re only used on subjects on human interest."
Jones said that approximately 8,000 virtual organizations in 45 countries are contributing to EGEE. The EGEE Grid initiative has already finished two phases of development. The third and final phase, according to the EGEE Web site, is scheduled to begin in May. The third phase will focus on combining the Grid infrastructures around the world into one permanent, unified global Grid, Jones said.
"We’re making sure this infrastructure continues to run," Jones said. "It’s being used so much that you can’t switch it off anymore. We’re working with world governments to establish a permanent international infrastructure. In the end, it’s about how we (at EGEE) can provide new ways of community building."