LHC: Can you render video on it?
OK, so I know that I’m a Geek. I saw a post talking about the end of the world brought about by science, and I just had to read it. But it lead me to read about one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen. The Large Hadron Collider. Imagine, 50 miles of tunnel in a circle where supper conductor magnets accelerate partials at almost the speed of light, and try to collide them together. What’s a Geek not to love?
So as I was read more about it, I realized that the computing power for this system is hosted at Cern. For those of you how are not in the know on Geek history, Cern is where what came to be know as the Internet started. A whole bunch of scientists needed to share project data, so they invented a way of using computers to share data across a network (not Al Gore). So what part does Cern play in this project, simple. The LHC is projected to produce about 15 petabytes of data every year. I saw that number and my mind exploded. What does that mean in tangible terms? A stack of CDs, about twice the hight of Mt. Everest, every year.
So to be able to process and store that amount of data, you can’t do it all in one location. Leave it to the people who invented the Internet to figure out the solution. Don’t process it in one place. They have created what is being called “The Grid”. 250 Computing Center in 45 different countries around the world.
So there is a lot of speculation as to how this computing technology will push the Desktop world forward into the next Century. Well, we all know that Microsoft will find a way to sell an operating system for it cheep but crappy, and Apple will release an amazingly stunning product that cost you an arm and a leg. However the real technology experts know this is not going to effect computer design as much as the way we thing of computing needs. No long will everything have to done in one place to get a job done that is big, instead you can farm out to different farms to get the same project done. Example, I heard on a DVD documentary I was watching recently for Battle Star Galatia that it takes roughly 5 hours a frame to render HD content with computer generated graphics. If you had enough farms pulled into the project, you can have one master controller in your building and get space other farms for cheep, and get that number down verry easily.
So, of course, I see this amazing feat of technology and the first thing I think of is “How can it make better movies, faster?” There is a lot of talk about how this kind of computing is going to change the face of the Internet, and I have to remind myself of the basic tenant of Technology: It will only get used if people embrace it. All you 4 track people out there know what I’m talking about, or if you were to young for that, all you Beta people, Laser Disk people, MinCD people, you get the idea. It could be because the whole Blue Ray vs. HDDVD battle is still going on even though the winner of that battle has been declared many times (and a different winner each time.
If we find a useful application for this level of computing, that can be embraced by the world at large as a standard, then we will see some great stuff happening. But in the mean time, lets all stay tuned for those scientists who are smashing protons into each other, and realizing that if you are going to harness the forces of nature to see what happens, you better have an amazing computer there to record the data.