I sometimes lose track of how many years there are such as International Year of Chemistry, Year of Science in BC, etc. but here’s one that’s new to me, the European Year of Volunteering.
CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research [I imagine the French version was Centre européen de la recherche scientifique] and the world’s leading laboratory for particle physics) just announced as part of its support for volunteering, a new version of their volunteer computing project, LHC@home, 2.0, From the August 8, 2011 news item on Science Daily,
This version allows volunteers to participate for the first time in simulating high-energy collisions of protons in CERN’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC). Thus, volunteers can now actively help physicists in the search for new fundamental particles that will provide insights into the origin of our Universe, by contributing spare computing power from their personal computers and laptops.
This means that volunteers at home can participate in the search for the Higgs boson particle, sometimes known as the ‘god’ particle or the ‘champagne bottle’ boson. (Despite rumours earlier this year, the Higgs boson has not yet materialized as Jon Butterworth mentions in his May 11, 2011 post on the Guardian Science blogs. Note: Jon Butterworth is a physics professor at University College London and a member of the High Energy Physics group on the Atlas experiment at Cern’s Large Hadron Collider.)
This latest iteration of the LHC@home project is just one of a series of projects and events being developed by the Citizen Cyberscience Centre (which itself is supported by CERN, by UNITAR [United Nations Institute for Training and Research, and by the University of Geneva) for the European Year of Volunteering.
Two other projects just announced by the Citizen Cyberscience Centre (from the Science Daily news item),
Other projects the Citizen Cyberscience Centre has initiated focus on promoting volunteer science in the developing world, for humanitarian purposes. For example, in collaboration with IBM's philanthropic World Community Grid and Tsinghua University in Beijing, the Citizen Cyberscience Centre launched the Computing for Clean Water project. The project uses the supercomputer-like strength of World Community Grid to enable scientists to design efficient low-cost water filters for clean water.
In a separate project supported by HP, volunteers can help UNOSAT, the Operational Satellite Applications Programme of UNITAR, to improve damage assessment in developing regions affected by natural or human-made disasters, for humanitarian purposes.
More information about these projects is available in the August 8, 2011 news item on physorg.com,
As Sergio Bertolucci, Director of Research and Scientific Computing at CERN, emphasizes: "While LHC@home is a great opportunity to encourage more public involvement in science, the biggest benefits of citizen cyberscience are for researchers in developing regions who have limited resources for computing and manpower. Online volunteers can boost available research resources enormously at very low cost. This is a trend we are committed to promote through the Citizen Cyberscience Center".
Leading international computer manufacturers such as IBM and HP have contributed their support and expertise to Citizen Cyberscience Center projects including UNOSAT [UNITAR's Operational Satellite Applications Prorgramme]. Using data from space agencies and satellite operators around the world, UNOSAT can produce maps for humanitarian applications such as damage assessment or monitoring deforestation. The project relies on ‘volunteer thinking’ where participants actively analyse imagery and their results are compared.
“From a development and humanitarian perspective, the potential of citizen-powered research is enormous”, says Francesco Pisano, Manager of UNOSAT, ” Participating in the Citizen Cyberscience Center enables us to get new insights into the cutting edge of crowdsourcing technologies. There is no doubt that volunteers are playing an increasingly central role in dealing with crisis response, thanks to the Internet.”
Well, the current London riots are revealing other less salubrious uses of social media and the internet but I like to think that in the end, creative uses will prove more enticing than destructive uses.
ETA August 10, 2011: I found one more year, 2011 is the International Year of Forests.