Arrgh! Avast and fine pirate greetings to those of you who are still aboard this rickety bucket.
Normally I would release some work for the crew, just to "light up the cluster" and see how many we have left, and to reward those who have stayed. But I'm sad to report that I'm not able to do so today. Some time at the end of the last little run the feeder gave out, and now fails with "segmentation fault" whenever I try to start it. I've looked at file permissions and other issues, tried recompiling (from the old code base that would be compatible with the other daemons), but to no avail. The engines have indeed failed and we are truly dead in the water.
The proper fix for this is to upgrade the software to the latest version of BOINC, which has been my intention for a while now. The limiting factor is time. I had plans to do this over the summer, and even a new mission for our crew to go with it (more on that later), but a sudden change in my employment sucked up all available extra time.
This year I'm leading a new crew, of about 70 cadets from the US Military Academy at West Point. I've been hired, along with 4 other civilian physicists, to help West Point through a major shift in their physics curriculum. It's only a one year gig, but I still went through the same 6 week training they give to the military instructors who rotate through for 3 years. It was great training (I learned a lot, even though I already knew a lot about teaching physics) and it is a great team to work with (many are nuclear engineers, almost all are officers with combat experience). It is a very different world from the academic environment I've been in before, and I'm enjoying learning more about it. And all my students are very accomplished and capable, even those who are not naturally good at learning physics.
As I said, before this came up (rather suddenly) I had intended to upgrade the project for a new mission. Let me explain that. Over this past summer I worked with three high school students on a project to investigate the LIGO data which has been released to the public by the LIGO Open Science Center. This was similar to the I2U2 project I worked on previously, and which was the basis of a previous Pirates mission. (I modified the forum code to allow image and file attachments, for use as a scientific logbook in I2U2.) One big difference is that LOSC have released h(t) data, the real deal for searching for gravitational waves, while I2U2 used PEM data, which were recorded using seismometers, magnetometers, accelerometers, and weather stations, to monitor the physical environment of the LIGO detectors.
[ I'll mention that I recently learned that the I2U2 project has terminated, but that's a sign of success not failure, because the LIGO e-Lab it created has been incorporated into FermiLab's QuarkNet education project, which is what got I2U2 started. You can visit the LIGO e-Lab if you want to check it out. ]
Each of the three students on my team this summer took real data from LOSC and performed some kind of analysis on it, using Python code they created (based on some very useful examples provided by LOSC). One looked at the potential for interference from the background noise from the 60 Hz power mains (any gravitational waves from the Crab pulsar will be very close to 60Hz!). Another looked at the injected signals the LIGO scientists add to the data to simulate black hole collisions or the continuous wave sources that Einstein@Home is listening for. And one was interested in distributed computing and BOINC and set out to design a "campaign" of computing to analyze the data from LOSC throughout the S5 run (and the S6 data, which became available during this project).
My intention was to upgrade Pirates@Home and add a new application, based on the existing Python wrapper and an R-wrapper I'd written previously, to allow us to run the Python code any of these students had written. We could also run a student-written work generator to select the LIGO data to process, organized in a hierarchical fashion so that the first pass spans the whole 2 years of the S5 run, the next pass fills in the gaps, the next pass fills in the gaps within the gaps, and so on.
Alas, I suddenly had no time to do this, and it also proved to be a little too much for beginning students, but it's still an idea I would like to pursue. I can't make any guarantees, but this is still a potential future mission for Pirates@Home. And perhaps I can even recruit future students from this crew?
Finally, as some of you know I encountered another time time crunch about 6 years ago when the littlest member of our crew came aboard. I'm happy to report that she's doing great. She just started first grade, and this summer she started doing karate. In fact, I have to close now to go take her to her karate lesson.
I hope you all enjoy Talk Like a Pirate Day, even without some work from the project. Arrgh!
-- Eric Myers
"Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire." -- William Butler Yeats