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Supercomputing Science

Supercomputer Adds Credence to Standard Model 120

ScienceDaily is reporting that researchers at the University of Edinburgh and Southampton in cooperation with partners from Japan and the US have shed some light on the Standard Model of physics using a new computer model. "The project's enormously complex calculations relate to the behavior of tiny particles found in the nuclei of atoms, known as quarks. In order to carry out these calculations, the researchers first designed and built a supercomputer that was among the fastest in the world, capable of tens of trillions of calculations per second. The computations themselves have taken a further three years to complete. Their result shows that the Standard Model's claim to be the best theory invented holds firm. It raises the stakes for the riddle to be solved by experiments at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, which will switch on later this year. Physicists' efforts to confront Standard Model predictions using the most powerful computers available with the most precise experiments offer no clues about what to expect."
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Supercomputer Adds Credence to Standard Model

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  • by Roger W Moore ( 538166 ) on Friday February 29, 2008 @11:17PM (#22607740) Journal
    Observations tend to provide "eureka" information that theory might miss or not become main stream for a while.

    I completely disagree. It is only when theory and observation both agree that you have a "eureka" moment. For example we have an observation that there is lots of dark energy (not dark matter - that is different) in the universe. However, so far, there is no good theory as to what it is. I don't seem to remember anyone going "Eureka! We have discovered dark energy!". Rather everyone is sitting around scratching their heads and wondering what it is.

    To get a Eureka moment you must have BOTH theory AND experiment in agreement. The SNO experiment is an excellent example. Experiment: not enough electron neutrinos coming from the sun; theory: neutrinos can change flavour from electron to tau or muon so the total flux of neutrinos will be correct; experiment: SNO measured the total neutrino flux and discovered that it agreed with solar model predictions while still seeing a reduced electron neutrino flux. Result: EUREKA! Neutrinos oscillate!

    Conclusion: theory and experiment are both EQUALLY important to advancing science. One without the other may be interesting but not very useful.
  • by Score Whore ( 32328 ) on Friday February 29, 2008 @11:34PM (#22607804)

    You're ignoring the nature of the program, which aims to embody the standard model well enough to make predictions about reality for phenomena that it's not been possible to directly observe. It's a little more than just a program that spits out arbitrary but predictable results, since the results do in fact have some relation to reality. If the model is any good at all, the correspondence will be very good.

    If you can't observe the phenomena in the real world, then how do you know the model has any correspondence? Or are you going to say that my computer model of classical mechanics is proof that general relativity is incorrect?

    You must also believe that computer models of aerodynamics that predict a racecar will experience less drag than a Hummer also have no connection to reality and truth. I'd argue that to the extent that a model makes accurate predictions again and again, there is some connection to reality and truth.

    I would suggest you re-read my post and consider this phrase:

    ...cannot expand (or confirm) the frontiers of [scientific] research...

    I absolutely agree that you can use computer models in engineering. But the computer model showing a race car has less drag than a Hummer isn't expanding your knowledge of fluid dynamics. It's allowing you to apply what you already have established as the rules to different situations. It will not allow you to prove or disprove new rules for fluid dynamics.

MESSAGE ACKNOWLEDGED -- The Pershing II missiles have been launched.