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From symmetry

Physicists get a supercomputing boost

Sometimes the tiniest difference between a prediction and a result can tell scientists that a theory isn’t quite right and it’s time to head back to the drawing board.

One way to find such a difference is to refine your experimental methods to get more and more precise results. Another way to do it: refine the prediction instead. Scientists recently showed the value of taking this tack using some of the world’s most powerful supercomputers.

An international team of scientists has made the first ever calculation of an effect called direct charge-parity violation—or CP violation—a difference between the decay of matter particles and of their antimatter counterparts.

They made their calculation using the Blue Gene/Q supercomputers at the RIKEN BNL Research Center at Brookhaven National Laboratory, at the Argonne Leadership Class Computing Facility at Argonne National Laboratory, and at the DiRAC facility at the University of Edinburgh.

Their work took more than 200 million supercomputer core processing hours—roughly the equivalent of 2000 years on a standard laptop. The project was funded by the US Department of Energy’s Office of Science, the RIKEN Laboratory of Japan and the UK Science and Technology Facilities Council.

The scientists compared their calculated prediction to experimental results established in 2000 at European physics laboratory CERN and Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory.

Scientists first discovered evidence of indirect CP violation in a Nobel-Prize-winning experiment at Brookhaven Lab in 1964. It took them another 36 years to find evidence of direct CP violation.

“This so-called ‘direct’ symmetry violation is a tiny effect, showing up in just a few particle decays in a million,” says Brookhaven physicist Taku Izubuchi, a member of the team that performed the calculation.

Physicists look to CP violation to explain the preponderance of matter in the universe. After the big bang, there should have been equal amounts of matter and antimatter, which should have annihilated with one another. A difference between the behavior of matter and antimatter could explain why that didn’t happen.

Scientists have found evidence of some CP violation—but not enough to explain why our matter-dominated universe exists.

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Kathryn Jepsen

In Brief

The new Fermilab news: Say your piece

If you've submitted announcements to Fermilab Today, you know that you were given 700 characters to say what you wanted to say.

In our forthcoming news page on Fermilab at Work (see the Oct. 30 issue for more on this), you won't be limited by number of characters when you want to announce something. Not only that, but you will also be able to submit professional milestone notices, such as awards and retirements, and classified ads — all of which will be published on Fermilab at Work as soon as they're approved by the Office of Communication.

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Photo of the Day

23 skidoo

nitrogen, nighttime, 23
Somebody, maybe Michael Jordan, painted the number of human chromosome pairs on this tank of liquid nitrogen. Photo: Elliott McCrory, AD
In the News

University of Chicago celebrates national labs

From Hyde Park Herald, Nov. 18, 2015

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and University of Chicago President Robert Zimmer kicked off an event titled “The University of Chicago and Affiliated Laboratories: Powerful Partners in Transformative Science” on Friday, Nov. 13, by pointing to the continued prominence of the university as a national leader is scientific developments.

The event, which was held in the William Eckhardt Research Center, 5640 S. Ellis Ave., on University of Chicago’s (U. of C.) campus, focused on the histories of the two university-managed U.S. Department of Energy laboratories—Argonne National Laboratory and Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory—as well as the university-affiliated Marine Biological Laboratory, in Woods Hole, Mass.

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