How many of those millions of man-hours contributed to this discovery? How many other major breakthroughs have they enabled? How much amazing potential is locked up in proprietary software, utterly useless?
A major discovery like this is a perfect chance to blow the horn for publicly-funded research, and open source software is a huge part of that.
No longer, because software was not the bottleneck.
The hard part about finding a Higgs boson is designing the gigantic particle accelerator and the detectors, then getting the funding to build them, then building them, then running them for N hours and analyzing the data. These things took decades. They started in the 1980s, years before Linux.
I'm not saying it's on the scale of years, but that's what I'm opening up for discussion. It's certainly plausible, given the sheer scale of work that's gone into the development of Linux, that there may be features that researchers would have had to recreate at great effort and expense had Linux not existed.
This is a leading line of discourse -- you're strongly implying that Linux permitted more rapid development, but you don't appear to have any supportable justification for why that would be the case.
It has been noted by others (in the article, for example) that Linux is the undisputed king of high-performance computing, in the public sector at least. My only assumption is that that is not random, that there are reasons for it.
I'm not trying to lead the discourse anywhere -- I'm certainly not a Linux fanatic, if that's what you're implying. I just think it's utterly plausible that Linux, and the open source community in general, saved these people a whole bunch of time.
I have no idea whether that was part of the reasoning for this or not though.
It's complicated, more so than can be adequately addressed here, and far beyond a simple question of Linux specifically "saving [people] a whole bunch of time".
The original design for ATLAS had a sampling system where only random blocks of data could be analysed just because the computers (and buses and memory) couldn't keep up - so the data analysis became a sort of monte-carlo process as well. And this was in spite of huge and very impressive arrays of custom FPGAs and Transputers (in the 90s).
Perhaps, but we were discussing software. Specifically, "Linux" vs "some other operating system".
I agree that advances in computing must surely have a lot to do with the discovery of the Higgs, but such advances are about hardware, not operating systems. Since the 1990s, billions of dollars, both public and private, have been spent to keep Moore's Law rolling forward, and that's most of what makes modern computers more capable.
Anyway, it occurs to me that this discussion is a classic bikeshed. Rather than debate tricky and obscure issues like the quantum mechanics behind the Higgs phenomenon, the engineering of supercolliders, the politics of getting supercolliders funded, the ins and outs of data processing algorithms at CERN, or the techniques of manufacturing transistors with a 20nm gate size, we have fallen back to debating whether or not the license used for the operating system was vitally important.
If CERN had had to implement a Unix entirely from scratch in order to do their job, they would have done so. It would have been a minor side issue. Indeed, from a certain point of view, that may be exactly what they did. Why discuss how Linux was vital for CERN's scientists, but not the other way around? Perhaps the reason why Linux was so good for high-energy physics is that high-energy physicists built it that way?
I would also question whether 20+ years of devlopment on a private UNIX clone would have produced a better result than Linux. There are plenty of private UNIXes but sarcely a convincing argument that a single one is better than Linux in some meaningful way.
Whether some semi-imaginary particle fits the parameters of some semi-imaginary theory is pretty uninteresting ;-)
I think they prefer it if we call such things "complex" rather than "semi-imaginary" ;-)
I found that once you get past the technicalities and when you get back to a bird's eye view, interactions among elementary particles follow almost naturally and looks deceptively simple , and the postulate of the Higgs boson existence seems like one† of the obvious solutions explaining mass.
Now when you get back down in the trenches and have to properly define it theoretically I'm positively convinced it is another matter entirely in terms of complexity.
† Then again, we previously tried to explain how light could be propagating through a postulated medium called luminiferous aether. Hopefully it looks like the LHC experiments are not going the way aether experiments did.
For offical usage in the context of Oracle production databases and eventually other applications requiring commercial support there is a limited number of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 Server, Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 Server licenses available at CERN. For all other tasks standard CERN Linux distribution: Scientific Linux CERN shall be used.
Macs (BSD-based) are popular at CERN as well:
Smashing Research at CERN
Proprietary software can be pretty useful to people who find it worth paying for.
The scientist in the linked story comes out and says that he is not sure about the differences between BSD and linux and that windows could have filled the gap in principle.
Tools are tools. Whether its a hammer or a Scientific Linux Cluster the significant factor is the user, the carpenter or the physicist. The search for the theory of everything is not a logistics/supply-chain-management problem it is a question of physics.
I think that Unix-alikes are going to dominate any sort of high-performance computing; and I think it's more than just the network effects of the current user base. The scriptability and composability that permeates Unix-alikes is essential for automating tasks across thousands of nodes. That's not to say that it's impossible in Windows, but it's not as much in Windows' culture. Being able to ssh to any node, occasionally draw graphics remotely, all these things are hugely important. The main advantage of Windows, point-and-click administration and lots of existing software, are not advantages when you can't point-and-click thousands of machines and you have to write all your software anyway.
"Tools are tools. Whether its a hammer or a Scientific Linux Cluster the significant factor is the user, the carpenter or the physicist"
I agree with you that tools are a means to an end and that obviously the LHC is a lot more important that the choice of OS. I just think you were a bit too dismissive of tools in your post, though perhaps that wasn't your intent. If someone is going to rah-rah a tool, in this case Linux, they should be pointing out what role it played and what about its use was essential, not just that it was used.
Savvy managers and organizations know when to give praise-- they key thing is not to trivialize it. This seems appropriate to me.
Scientists working at CERN, Geneva have announced the discovery of Higgs Boson which is considered to be one of the most important scientific feats in understanding the creation of Universe. It is called 'God particle' because it plays central role in discovering itself.
Scientists from CERN just posted on Reddit their thanks to Higgs Boson:
I don't see any CERN related things here, so I want to mention how Higgs Boson (specifically, lower energy one - the only one currently discoverd) had a vital role in the discovery of itself at CERN. We rely on it every day in our analyses to enable particles in atoms of our brains and computers to gather mass. Without it this discovery would truly be impossible. Thank you, Higgs Boson!
I still remember the discussions between still writing papers in LaTEX or move to FrameMaker on Windows.
Water also played a bigger role in the discovery of Higgs boson than Linux. Without water the researchers would surely have died of thirst weeks or days after starting work at CERN.
In "water" we trust.
On that note - what about paper and pens. Would the discovery have been possible without paper and pens? We'll never know for sure.
However there is definitely a large PR angle to this too. Let's imagine that they had used Microsoft Azure to crunch all the data or iPads to view/analyze it do you not think that MS or Apple would make a big deal out of it?
Whilst most HN readers probably understand the reach and dominance that Linux has in a huge number of areas, most people do not. I've heard it said many times even from people who work in tech "Linux is just a hippy OS for geeks and will never be taken seriously". LHC is now one extra thing you can add to the rebuttal.
If what you meant by "[most people do not] understand the reach and dominance that Linux has in a huge number of areas" was more in the sense of "Linux is a viable platform for building our business on" than "It's almost the year of Linux on the Desktop!" I apologise :)
Now Linux is everywhere from smartphones to supercomputers, and has pretty much outlasted or killed off all its former proprietary UNIX competitors. It'd be news if AIX, Tru64, SCO, or Solaris had anything to do with the discovery. We can stop doing this now, we've won.
(And for the newbies around, that's got nothing to do with Macs)
Of course we ran it in 8MB on 68020s which was simply luxury.
The age old dilemma: Windows or Turing machihe?
If you are interested, it is all open source and available here: http://root.cern.ch
Maybe the EU geocities was rife with teenage girls using Verdana, and Europeans secretly snicker at slide decks made by American physicists.
Code_primate explained it succinctly: http://www.reddit.com/r/science/comments/w0tty/higgs_boson_c...
While it may use some linux-only features, is it really hardwired to it so much it cannot be ported elsewhere?
If I had a buck every time Android does something stupid (their libc, bionic, is the primary culprit) that works just fine in GNU land, I wouldn't be developing drivers for Android.
They did this instead of trying to evolve it toward a vague goal in that general direction, or trying to drag along legacy apps.
In hindsight, it's obviously the right thing to have done. But it was a gamble at the time.
No, I wasn't talking about the UI and the Dalvik virtual machine. I was talking about what's underneath.
That darn libc, for example. Every operating system needs some kind of user space standard library that deals with system calls and such. Android could have used glibc or uclibc like all the other Linux-based platforms do. But no, they wrote their own. To avoid GPL licence.
Which libc you use does not make a difference to your customers, so you won't be adding any value by rolling your own. Instead, you get decades worth of maintenance to take care of. And now Android has this crappy libc that they don't do a very good job in maintaining and lots of little things are broken. If I had to guesstimate, they have used at least a million dollars (and counting) worth of developer time on that libc with absolutely zero value created.
Android is full of these silly examples of things gone wrong. As a customer, you won't see them. As an application developer you might get a glimpse but if you stay within the Dalvik sandbox, you're relatively safe. If you go NDK, try to port an existing software to Android or work with the internals, may lord have mercy on your soul.
It's saturday. I don't want to talk about Android any longer.
BTW, my favorite "Linux is awesome" moment? Watching an inflight system in front of my seat in a Delta flight reboot..
Linux powers Google, Facebook, Twitter, and a lot many other popular web sites. Linux is used on Android and a few lesser known mobile systems. Many if not most of the supercomputers in the Top 500 list are powered by Linux.
Hell, measured by the number of CPU's it runs on, Linux may even be the most widely used operating system today and it's been steadily increasing. (HN: anyone have any stats on this one?)
Go check your facts.
> BTW, my favorite "Linux is awesome" moment? Watching an inflight system in front of my seat in a Delta flight reboot..
We've all seen a public display with a rebooted Linux setup or stuck in bootloader. However, Windows blue screen is a lot more common.