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article imageParticle collisions are yours to see via CERN's Open Science

By Karen Hardison     Nov 26, 2014 in Science
Geneva - The world is abuzz because CERN has released in Open Science data sharing the first couple dozen terabytes of LHC high-velocity particle collisions such as the ones that brought the Higgs boson into view. Use the data for music, education or raw analysis.
The beauty and wonder of particles colliding and of the shimmering pathways they leave in their wake is now open to every school child, every closet physicist, every fledgling student physicist and every dance troupe, musician and artist on the planet. Data from the experiments conducted by the European Organization for Nuclear Research, more affectionately known simply as CERN, has already inspired musicians, like Lily Asquith and Carla Scaletti, and dancers, like the six performing Quantum choreographed by Gilles Jobin for Théatre Forum Meyrin, physics writers and future physicists. CERN hopes it will now inspire school children, artists, writers and physicists across the world by launching open access to Large Hadron Collider (LHC) data that we can visualize or perform raw analysis on through CERN's newly launched Open Data Portal.
CERN Director-General Rolf Heuer:
Launching the CERN Open Data Portal is an important step for our organization. ... We hope these open data will support and inspire the global research community, including students and citizen scientists.
This event shows 78 reconstructed vertices in the CMS Tracker recorded 2012.
This event shows 78 reconstructed vertices in the CMS Tracker recorded 2012.
CERN:CMS Collection/A. Holzner
See Like a Physicist Sees
The release of Open Science data allows "citizen scientists" the chance to participate in the search massive-scale physics makes to unravel the mysteries of the universe. Big on that list of mysteries are the quests for what gives mass to matter and what gives matter to invisible dark matter. Massive-scale physics explores these and other mysteries by examining quantum particles for mass and other properties.
To illustrate, it was theorized that neutrinos — those quirky particles that zoom out from the core of the Sun and change their properties in mid-flight — had no mass. The quest for their properties has now uncovered that they do, in fact, have mass and that the three "flavors" (kinds) of neutrinos have three close but different mass states. If the hypothesized sterile neutrino is confirmed, it will have a fourth mass state. The sterile neutrino adds to these mysteries because it makes an interesting contender for providing the composition of dark matter though the favorite contender is the axion, recently detected streaming from the Sun and converting to X-rays upon collision with Earth's magnetic field.
See Colliding Quantum Particles for Yourself
You can visualize, or view graphics of, particle collisions, the pathways exploding particles take and the tracks they make at CERN's Open Data Portal. The application looks a little intimidating but the clear instructions for use, "Need Help?" get you visualizing quickly. You can also view histograms that display various events within varying parameters. You can also access additional learning resources and explore data specific to any of the four LHC experiments. You can even install a virtual machine on your computer, then get started analyzing raw data.
CMS detector in a cavern 100 m underground at CERN s Large Hadron Collider.
CMS detector in a cavern 100 m underground at CERN's Large Hadron Collider.
CERN CMS/Lucas Taylor
CERN's LHC operates four experiments, which are massive in themselves and will never fit in the school chemistry lab. They are, as CERN identifies them, the CMS (Compact Muon Solenoid), ALICE (A Large Ion Collider Experiment), the ATLAS (A Toroidal LHC ApparatuS) and the LHCb (The Large Hadron Collider beauty). The data release celebrating the launch of the Open Data Portal is restricted to data sets from CMS, and the data is that collected in 2010. The data was generated in the original run of LHC and has already been studied and analyzed by CERN scientists. No data sets will be released in the Portal in future until three years have passed from collection.
CERN's Two-Fold Purpose
One purpose in releasing LHC open access data sets is to make all LHC's data available for everyone and anyone to use in the hope of igniting further projects, research and creativity. Since raw data is also available, with software for reading and analyzing it, there is also the possibility of new discoveries in physics.
CMS data preservation coordinator Kati Lassila-Perini:
We’ve prepared tools and examples of different levels of complexity from simplified analysis to ready-to-use online applications. We hope these examples will stimulate the creativity of external users.
Real CMS proton-proton collision events in which 4 high energy muons (red lines) are observed.
Real CMS proton-proton collision events in which 4 high energy muons (red lines) are observed.
CERN:CMS Collection/Thomas McCauley, Lucas Taylor
CERN's second purpose is to advance the physics being done in academic and research communities. The LHC data, of high level and with analyzable collisions, will prove important to these communities and to the quests being undertaken to understand our cosmos at the quantum and the large-scale levels. If you're hoping perhaps to rediscover the Higgs boson through the analyzable collisions, be forewarned. According to CMS data preservation coordinator Kati Lassila-Perini, while there are Higgs events in the 2010 data, finding them, well, "It's a needle in a haystack."
CERN's Foundation in Openness
Since CERN's founding convention in 1954, there has been a foundational belief in open science. Now that the Internet has made Open Access publishing and Open Science so much easier to facilitate, LHC has met the challenge to openness from its beginning. All LHC papers have been published with Open Access. This means all are free to read and to reuse. In keeping with their commitment to openness, CERN announced in the fall of 2014 a new partnership with the American Physical Society (APS) that will make all APS published CERN-authored papers Open Access beginning in 2015. High school students of physics have already been benefited by this commitment to openness through International Masterclasses in Particle Physics that are allow access to all four experiments: CMS, ALICE, ATLAS, LHCb.
Data preservation coordinator of the LHCb experiment Silvia Amerio:
We have seen that students are fascinated by being able to analyse LHC data in the past and so, we are very happy to take the first steps and make available some selected data for education.
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