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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Physicists Prefer Mac OS X

Brian Cox is one LHC physicist that has also grown into a star

Apple is featuring an article on one of the physicists working at the Large Hadron Collider, who just so happens to be a huge Mac fan. According to Brian Cox, any physicist will tell you that the Mac is the way to go, especially if you need to run both new apps and old UNIX programs.

According to the piece currently topping Apple's Science section, Brian Cox is one of the almost 10,000 physicists working at the LHC. He does his job in a laboratory at CERN, but also in Manchester. With all the news surrounding the LHC, Cox has become somewhat of a celebrity thanks to his talent for explaining “complex scientific subjects in understandable and entertaining terms.” In fact, he's so into what he does, that he manages to lecture both scientists and general audiences.

According to general belief, the feat was previously achieved only by renowned astronomer and writer Carl Sagan. Since 2003, Cox has been using the Mac for most of his computational needs, starting with research and ending with presentations and TV shows.

“When you look around a physics conference now, you see more Macs than anything else,” Cox says. “I think that's because they're essentially UNIX, and that makes it very easy for everybody who's used UNIX in particle physics for the past 20 or 30 years. There's a huge code base. We're still using programs written in Fortran quite a lot—programs that were written in the '70s and '80s—and they compile directly on the Mac. It's very easy to do, as opposed to Windows, where it's just a pain to compile all the old legacy programs.”

Cox adds that part of the appeal is the level of control available only with the Mac. “When you grow up as a physicist, certainly a particle physicist, you’ve grown up with terminals. And on a Mac, you can go in and type UNIX commands in a terminal window. It sounds really geeky, but physicists like that power. So, I can't overestimate or overemphasize the usefulness of the Mac being a UNIX-based system. [...] If you asked a physicist, 'What's the ideal laptop?' they would say a UNIX machine that runs things like PowerPoint or Adobe Photoshop,” Cox explains. “That's what everyone wants. And that's what the Mac is.”

Physicists Prefer Mac OS X

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