Open data from the Large Hadron Collider sparks new discovery

Last week, a team from MIT released an article in Physical Review Letters that used data from the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS), one of the LHC’s main detectors, to explain a feature within high-energy particle collisions. When protons collide at very high speeds, they release jets of quarks and gluons. The MIT team was able to show, using CMS data, that the same equation can predict both the pattern of these jets and the energy of the particles produced from a proton collision. Scientists suspected this was indeed the case, and now that hypothesis has been verified.

This is revolutionary because there’s been a reluctance in particle physics to make information available publicly. Jesse Thaler, one of the scientists on the project, told, “The worry was, if you made the data public, then you would have people claiming evidence for new physics when actually it was just a glitch in how the detector was operating.” He continues to say that there was a certain arrogance that may have played into it as well: the belief that, if in-house scientists couldn’t make a discovery based on this data, then there was no way others could.

That’s why this discovery is so encouraging. The equation in and of itself isn’t revolutionary; it confirms something most scientists already agreed with. But the fact that the LHC’s public data led to a discovery outside the organization is a big step. Perhaps it will encourage other particle colliders to make their data available as well. Thaler said, “Our work here shows that we can understand in general how to use this open data, that it has scientific value, and that this can be a stepping stone to future analysis of more exotic possibilities.”

Apple releases kernel source code tuned for mobile chips

To start: this is just the kernel, the low-level code that governs the most critical functions. It doesn’t cover the interface, developer frameworks or apps… that is, the parts that truly define iOS or macOS. Those elements are still closed off, so you would have to build most of the platform from scratch. You won’t see iOS on a Galaxy S8 any time soon. Apple also offers a relatively limited source code license that isn’t as flexible as, say, the GPL license used for Linux.

Moreover, while the presence of ARM-based Mac code is bound to raise eyebrows, this doesn’t mean that you’re about to see a MacBook with an A11 Bionic chip inside. Apple has a long history of writing code for other architectures “just in case” (the PowerPC-to-Intel transition happened quickly because Apple already had code waiting in the wings), so it might never make the switch. You certainly aren’t about to install macOS on your ARM-based Chromebook. And besides, there are rumors of Apple developing ARM-based companion chips for Macs. It may need ARM code even if it has no intention of ditching Intel for CPUs.

All the same, it’s a welcome move. This gives app and OS developers a better sense of how Apple tackles basic system tasks, particularly on iOS. And yes, anyone ambitious enough to write a full operating system could use XNU as a starting point. It’s just not going to change the status quo for Apple.