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IBM Science

Landmark Calculation Clears the Way To Answering How Matter Is Formed 205

First time accepted submitter smazsyr writes "An international collaboration of scientists is reporting in landmark detail the decay process of a subatomic particle called a kaon – information that may help answer fundamental questions about how the universe began. The calculation in the study required 54 million processor hours on the IBM BlueGene/P supercomputer at Argonne National Laboratory, the equivalent of 281 days of computing with 8,000 processors. 'This calculation brings us closer to answering fundamental questions about how matter formed in the early universe and why we, and everything else we observe today, are made of matter and not anti-matter,' says a co-author of the paper."
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Landmark Calculation Clears the Way To Answering How Matter Is Formed

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 28, 2012 @10:23PM (#40138853)
    Help restore /. to it's former nerd news glory, tag stories like this with realslash to tell the editors that we want our favorite site back.
  • Re:281 days? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 28, 2012 @11:07PM (#40139091)
    "54 million processor hours" does not have enough significant digits for you to assert that you right.
  • by bmo ( 77928 ) on Monday May 28, 2012 @11:31PM (#40139159)

    As someone who has just re-watched James Burke's "Connections" I have an answer for you:

    Basic science *never* appears to have any immediate applications in the here-and-now. But someone, somewhere, is going to look at bits of it and say "ah, wait, I can use this over here" and either advance more basic science, or start applying it to technology, aka, applied science. But we don't know who, which, how, when, or why. In general, that is how all change happens. It is why we can't look into the future and see all the implications of what we create today. You don't know how someone is going to look at what you did and have an insight into something else because of it.

    If you think something is useless because you, personally, can't see the implications of what something is, the problem is not with the science or technology, or social concept (like the creation of the first stock market in the Netherlands, for example) and you judge it such, the problem is with you and your myopia. Putting limits on what science gets done because immediate results are not readily apparent does nothing but hinder progress, and society (you and me and everyone else) loses out in the long run.

    James Clerk Maxwell's equations had *zero* immediate implications for society at the time, but here we are 150 years later with a society that would absolutely fall apart without them - no radio, no computers, no high tech at all.

    Anyone who says that basic science is too unfocused needs sit down and be quiet and let the adults talk.


  • by MobileTatsu-NJG ( 946591 ) on Monday May 28, 2012 @11:42PM (#40139193)

    Help restore /. to it's former nerd news glory..

    Wait, when was this? I've been here since 99. From day one it was sensationalist stories about Microsoft, verbal fellatio for Linux and Mozilla, and people falling into a big dog-pile to make the first "this is not news!!!" comment.

    Either I missed a very very brief period in Slashdot's history or somebody's looking back with rose-colored glasses.

  • by Belial6 ( 794905 ) on Monday May 28, 2012 @11:48PM (#40139209)
    I don't know. One of the big things that originally hooked me was the tendency for people to 'run the numbers' when they had a disagreement with someone else. Now it seems that instead of putting numbers on the page it just degrades into accusations of people watching FOX news.
  • by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @12:05AM (#40139273) Journal

    In other words; basic research is absolutely critical to scientific advancement, and those that have to ask why are ignorant of how we got to where we are now.

  • Re:281 days? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by InspectorGadget1964 ( 2439148 ) on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @12:21AM (#40139339) Journal
    Are you sure about that? The article does not say "about 54 million processor hours". Instead it implies an exact amount. If they are inaccurate, I fail to see why you are complaining to me
  • Re:281 days? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @02:47AM (#40139775)

  • by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @03:50AM (#40140007)

    One of the big things that originally hooked me was the tendency for people to 'run the numbers' when they had a disagreement with someone else.

    Slashdot has always been full of flamewars...

    The thing is, years ago it was hardly ever political flamewars. Flamewars about technical matters have an inherent ability for people to point to hard data about things, which kept the whole discussion somewhat tied to reality.

    With politics, all bets are off - because you are talking about people with wildly different views about what is good for other groups of people, and even if they agree on THAT you have differences in how to achieve an end-goal. It's all about Seldonesque behaviors of the masses and there's no "numbers" you can run that someone else cannot simply dismiss away with their own numbers.

    The reason for the spread of politics here is that inevitably, the spread of technology into the lives of every person means technology gets stuck in the tar baby of political motivation. Technology is simply part of the equation about how to change people in ways you deem most beneficial. So there's no going back to more reasoned discusson unless you want to remove technology from people's lives (some do, but I doubt the motive is to make Slashdot more readable).

    It's not like you can make any OTHER site like the "old Slashdot" and have it be any different, due as I said to the intertwining of technology with everyone and politics being everywhere. We all just have to learn how to include politics in technical discourse without getting too heated and off track...

  • Another great example is electricity.

    You won't find many today who would argue that electricity has no use. But go back to the very early days of electricity research (I'm talking about Volta and before) and you'd be hard pressed to find anyone who thought it had any practical use at all.

    That we have electricity as a practical form of energy is down to a bunch of people who researched it because it was interesting, and a mystery to be investigated, not because they thought there was some obvious practical application for it. Yes, engineers like Tesla, Marconi, et al, did lots of work to make it a widespread and developed useful applications for it, but they wouldn't have been able to had the fundamental research not been carried out.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @06:56AM (#40140659)

    I think the real question is why do such inane details bubble up into a general tech forum like this one. I often wonder who the target reader is for such an article -- there are almost no details in the article, there is no breakthrough that will produce any immediately tangible effect, and the reader leaves as confused as they enter.

    I'm always suspicious when the facts of the article are so far off from the their proposed implications. This one for example, "we measured the decay of a particle" leads to "answering fundamental questions about how matter is formed", which is immediately weakened to say that they are trying to understand "the asymmetry of matter and anti-matter".

    We are left to assume that they can make a useful determination as to the asymmetry of matter/antimatter with this experiment, then left to assume that this determination can lead to an understanding of matter itself. Why? Because if they just put the facts in the article, rightfully, no one would care.

FORTUNE'S FUN FACTS TO KNOW AND TELL: A giant panda bear is really a member of the racoon family.