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posted by janrinok on Wednesday May 21 2014, @07:04PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]

Develop Code to Study the Higgs Boson and Win Cash Prizes.

Physicists at the Large Hadron Collider would like your help in studying the Higgs Boson. It' s true that they found the Higgs boson-which is responsible for giving all particles their mass-nearly two years ago, but its exact behavior is still mysterious. Now, the scientists are asking coders to develop algorithms that can reveal the Higgs' properties. The Higgs Boson Machine Learning Challenge will reward successful coders with up to $ 7,000 in actual money. But it' s hard to put a price on the chance to be involved in one of the biggest scientific discoveries of the decade. Interested? Here' s the situation. At the LHC, protons are smashed together at colossal energies, creating a chaotic shower of particles. Physicists have to hunt through the noisy mess of other particles to see the Higgs' weak decay signal. They already have code that can pull out the Higgs signal from this noise (in fact, researchers at the Higgs-hunting ATLAS experiment didn't actually see the enigmatic particle in their detector, simply its decay signal). But the scientists think the public might be able to help them get a sharper signal and figure out what the Higgs is really like.

The contest started up about a week ago and already has nearly 200 participants. But the final prizes won't be awarded until September, so there's plenty of time for interested budding scientists to get involved.

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  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by VLM on Wednesday May 21 2014, @07:47PM

    by VLM (445) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday May 21 2014, @07:47PM (#46097)

    "No knowledge of particle physics is required."

    Well, this should be entertaining.

    I'm considering writing some glue code tonight to submit datasets to amazon's mechanical turk and let those poor bastards figure it out. I figure if they only test it a couple hundred times, and I pay the turk'ies the usual ten cents for a half hour of work, my $7000 prize is looking pretty good even after expenses.

    I'm not kidding about this either. Not even trying for a CS algorithm accomplishment, but entering as a performance art installation.

    I might even go for super irony points and wrapping the turk jobs in the usual crazy off the wall psych survey. So my turk quiz will look like this in the usual surveymonkey wrapper:

    The Higgs are a tau-tau couple. Note that the bible says its Adam and Eve, not tau and tau. How does this make you feel: More anxiolytic, or less anxiolytic, with like 7 bubbles. And about 15 other obscure adjectives. Your typical Turk psych survey.

    And the Pièce de résistance will be the survey numbers seed a PRNG and the PRNG decides if a Higgs was detected in the data or not and that will be presented as a quantum measurement that didn't collapse the wavefunction until a conscious entity filled out the survey. Very Schrodinger's Cat like.

    Then again I have some real work to to tomorrow morning. Someone else take up the torch and enter something like this? I have examined the rules and I believe my proposal does not violate any currently listed rules.

    • (Score: 2) by visaris on Wednesday May 21 2014, @10:08PM

      by visaris (2041) on Wednesday May 21 2014, @10:08PM (#46161) Journal

      > "No knowledge of particle physics is required."

      > Well, this should be entertaining.

      This is actually fairly accurate in many cases of the application of machine learning. The whole idea is to get the machine to find the patterns between the inputs (the features) and the output (the classification: "tau tau decay of a Higgs boson" versus "background"). So real-valued inputs map to 0 or 1. One doesn't need to have intimate knowledge (though, that may help things, and does in practice) of physics. One just needs to be good at the abstract problem of mapping some set of reals -- likely some combination of a subset of the given features and of some function(s) of the given features) -- to the set {0,1}. The "magic" will be in the selection of these features (and functions of features) in combination with the back-end learning mechanism, such as a SVM, NN, ensemble, etc.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 22 2014, @09:50AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 22 2014, @09:50AM (#46309)

      What the hell are you talking about?

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 21 2014, @07:53PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 21 2014, @07:53PM (#46104)

    Sounds more like a publicity stunt. Budget time?

    • (Score: 2) by MozeeToby on Wednesday May 21 2014, @08:14PM

      by MozeeToby (1118) on Wednesday May 21 2014, @08:14PM (#46112)

      It was good enough for Netflix, who probably had far more programming expertise and funding to throw at the problem, why shouldn't it produce results for CERN as well? And for $7k? If they get even a couple percentage points of improvement over their current algorithm it's worth it.

    • (Score: 2) by opinionated_science on Thursday May 22 2014, @12:20AM

      by opinionated_science (4031) on Thursday May 22 2014, @12:20AM (#46191)

      zero hours or lottery, not sure....