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Supercomputers Help Solve a 50-Year Homework Assignment

Click on the image to download a high-resolution version. IBM Blue Gene supercomputers at Brookhaven, used for kaon calculations.

Theoretical physicists are trying to learn how more matter than antimatter was generated in the Big Bang that created the universe.

Credit: Brookhaven National Laboratory

A group of theoretical physicists are using supercomputers to calculate the decay of one type of subatomic material with hopes of answering why the early universe ended up with an excess of matter. Without that excess, the matter and antimatter created in equal amounts in the Big Bang would have completed annihilated one another, and our universe would have contained nothing but light.

Physicists believe there was a violation of symmetry, and they call it charge conjugation-parity (CP) violation. They sought to develop a theory to explain the decay of a subatomic particle known as a kaon into two other particles called pions, which are composed of quarks. This mathematical description could be used to calculate how frequently it happens and whether or how much it could account for the matter-antimatter imbalance in the universe.

The team has developed complex algorithms and has written sophisticated software packages that some of the world's most powerful supercomputers use to describe the behavior of quarks and solve the problem. Thus far, the results of the calculation show how frequently CP-violating weak interaction occurs and the strength of the CP violation at the quark level, says Taku Izubuchi at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory.

From Brookhaven National Laboratory
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