CERN seeks volunteers to help with virtual atom smashing

Posted by Emma Woollacott

CERN is asking for your help in looking for the Higgs boson - not that it thinks you've got one down the back of the sofa or anything.

But it's launched a new version of its volunteer computing project LHC@home2, allowing the public to help simulate the high-energy collisions of protons in CERN’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC).

Volunteers contribute spare computing power from their PCs and laptops to help in the search for new fundamental particles - which are expected to provide insights into the origin of our universe.

"Openness about publicly funded research benefits scientists and citizens alike," says CEO of the Shuttleworth Foundation, Helen Turvey.

"And there’s no greater openness than when researchers invite citizen volunteers to be an active part of the scientific process. We’re excited to see the ways in which the Citizen Cyberscience Centre is pushing the social and technological envelope in this space."

The team hopes to recruit as many as 50,000 volunteers for the effort. The first stage will be to compare the volunteers' models with the results of real particle collisions detected by the LHC. The simulations could reveal clues about the Higgs boson, the so-called God particle from which mass is derived.

"Citizen cyberscience is a grass-roots movement which challenges the assumption that only professionals can do science'" says Pierre Spierer, Vice-Rector for Research of the University of Geneva.

"Given the right tools and incentives, and some online training, millions of enthusiastic volunteers can make a real difference, contributing to significant scientific discoveries."

Volunteers can sign up here.