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Summary:

If you check out the webcams at the European Organization for Nuclear Research’s CMS project, you may just observe something rather unexpected. Although the picture below is from CERN, it’s much more akin to a boring office space than a scientific laboratory. However, look a little […]

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If you check out the webcams at the European Organization for Nuclear Research’s CMS project, you may just observe something rather unexpected.

Although the picture below is from CERN, it’s much more akin to a boring office space than a scientific laboratory. However, look a little closer and you might notice something out of the ordinary. It seems that some of the research at CERN may be powered by Apple.

The scientists over at CERN are doing some serious research, using data from the Large Hadron Collider for something called the Compact Muon Solenoid Experiment. While it’s not clear if this is an officially sanctioned MacBook, using Apple gear for scientific research is nothing new.

Drew McCormack is Chief Developer over at The Mental Faculty. Alongside creating apps for Mac and iPhone to aid learning, he’s also a board member of MacResearch.org, an independent community of scientists using Apple software and hardware for their research.

Drew took a moment to explain why Apple is on the rise in the scientific community, “There has been a trend over the last few years in US Universities for students to buy a MacBook or MacBook Pro. This has given Apple a leg up in higher education.”

Mac’s aren’t just for science students though, as Drew explains, “The rise in student uptake of Macs is gradually leading to more and more interest in Macs as scientific workstations. A Mac can be used to answer email, surf the web, and write scientific articles, but it can equally run high-performance calculations. This is due to the UNIX underpinnings of Mac OS X, and more recently to Apple’s emphasis on performance in Snow Leopard. Technologies like OpenCL and Grand Central are very attractive to scientists who need to crunch numbers.”

Over the coming years, perhaps we’ll see a few scientific breakthroughs made possible by Apple devices, that is if the LHC doesn’t trigger the end of the universe and ultimate destruction of humankind first.

  1. He could also be using it for personal use. My place of employment uses PCs, but if I need to finish up some personal stuff or even happen to have my MBP with me, I bring it in and use it on my downtime and/or breaks. That’s not to say the post is entirely incorrect, but there are too many reasons as to why he has a Mac to speculate, in my opinion.

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  2. My father works on that project. I can confirm he takes his Macbook to CERN. A lot of people do. Fermilab has a large number of offices working on Macs, too.

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  3. Hate to break it to you, but physicists use their laptops like everyone else, viz. to write on. Real heavy duty calculations are run on Linux clusters these days.

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  4. We’re used to seeing the Macbooks slung in record bags by graphic designers but not so much on the table of a laboratory. I think what’s really interesting here is to see Apple hardware being taken up by the scientific community.

    @Henry, it seems that Macs really are being used to do calculations too. I have contacts who are researching both at Oxford and Cambridge and using Apple hardware to plough through swathes of data for their research.

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  5. This is kind of a dumb article.

    Anyone who works at any major University or scientific concern knows that Apple computers are used quite a lot in those situations.

    The idea that there wouldn’t be Macs there because it’s a “serious scientific place” is just stupid.

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    1. Gazoobee strikes again!

      Hadn’t seen any negative comments from you lately and was wondering if you were still around. Seems you are!

      Welcome back. :)

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    2. It’s not necessarily a dumb article, it just draws incorrect conclusions based on a fanboy reaction to a webcam picture. CERN’s needs are unique, which is why they developed their own custom Linux distro. The fact that there are Macs in the control room is hardly enough evidence to draw the conclusion that the author does, but then again nobody really takes the Apple Blog seriously.

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    3. “…but then again nobody really takes the Apple Blog seriously”

      Right you are!!!! ;)

      My mom takes us seriously. So that counts for at least one person, making your “nobody” claim sensationalist and factually incorrect.

      BOOM! Have a nice day. :)

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  6. Shame none of the research tools I used as a physicist would run on OSX.

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    1. Compatibility varies throughout the field. Coding C++ and applying programs to data files (text) is pretty platform-independent these days, which is what they do at CERN.

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  7. If you guys look very carefully, then you would see what appears to be a 24″ iMac in the far back (on top of the cabinet).

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    1. You may just have something there!

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  8. The web was invented in 1990 by Tim Berners-Lee, at CERN, on NeXTSTEP, the software predecessor of MacOS X, which is what TBL uses today.

    http://obamapacman.com/2009/08/world-wide-web-inventor-tim-berners-lee-uses-apple-mac/

    Many Macs-in-science stories at
    http://www.apple.com/science/profiles

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    1. Victor, thanks for link! =)

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  9. I used to work at CERN. All of the detector controls are run on hard-wired Linux boxes. Monitoring the detector is not the most exciting task, so most people bring in their personal laptops for something to do. I can almost guarantee it’s not running OS X though.

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  10. Yes, Apple laptops are much more common at CERN, and in high-energy physics in general, than they used to be. I’d say, from occasional checks of the laptops around me in hep meetings nowadays, that the Mac proportion is maybe 80%. But the serious computing at CERN uses PC farms, running Linux. This is by far the most cost-effective solution for the large-scale computing needs. But people use their laptops for everyday personal computing: mail, web browsing, editing, document preparation and reading, presentations, and even some (light) data analysis, which has become a lot easier for the scientific community now Mac OS X has Unix underpinnings. And finally, as an aside, remember the web was developed – at CERN – on NeXT machines :)

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