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Supercomputer Adds Credence to Standard Model

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 6 years ago | from the start-watching-for-vogons dept.

Supercomputing 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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120 comments

Wow! (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22607240)

Why does the number 42 come to mind?

No! (3, Funny)

TheWanderingHermit (513872) | more than 6 years ago | (#22607474)

I am Vroomfondle and that is not a demand, it is a solid fact.

We are philosophers (though we may not be). We are here as representatives of Amalgamated Union of Philosophers, Sages, Luminaries, and Other Professional Thinking Persons and we want this machine off and we want off now.

What's the use of our sitting up all night saying there may (or may not be) a God if this machine comes along next morning and gives you his telephone number?

We demand rigidly defined areas of doubt and uncertainty!

You'll have a National Philosopher's Strike on your hands!

Re:No! (1)

Shturmovik (632314) | more than 6 years ago | (#22609286)

What's the use of our sitting up all night saying there may (or may not be) a God if this machine comes along next morning and gives you his telephone number?
Anybody who wastes their time on such an infantile question deserves to have their time wasted.

How can a wholly imaginary being have a telephone number? Is that like the address for Santa listed at the Post Office?

Then again, the tooth fairy conceit is just as ludicrous as the "god" postulate, yet those damn coins keep showing up anyway.

Ergo, deities must, in fact, exist, according to all the best ID logic.

I'm a philosophiser.

Re:Wow! (2, Funny)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 6 years ago | (#22607530)

Well, the word "supercomputer" has 13 characters. 14, if you count the terminating '\0'. The supercomputer was running for 3 years. Now 3*14=42. That should explain it. :-)

Mersenne prime (1)

Lord Haw Haw (1248410) | more than 6 years ago | (#22607248)

Apparently the EFF is offering a $100,000 prize for discovering new prime numbers. As stated on the website. [mersenne.org] I'd be putting that processing to good use. If you've got a good system, the odds are not much worse than a lottery. And it's free. :)

Re:Mersenne prime (1)

Harmonious Botch (921977) | more than 6 years ago | (#22607302)

Don't bother with EFF. If you have a computer that can brute force primes of that size, the NSA will pay you way more than 100K for it. The EFF is really looking for more techniques, not power.

Boycott ScienceDaily (5, Informative)

jnana (519059) | more than 6 years ago | (#22607258)

I wish people would stop posting crappy science articles from ScienceDaily and related sites.

From this article, we learn that computer modeling confirmed something "about the behavior of quarks". That's it. There is nothing of substance in the article other than this and that the computation took three years.

Re:Boycott ScienceDaily (0, Troll)

Score Whore (32328) | more than 6 years ago | (#22607426)

From this article, we learn that computer modeling confirmed something "about the behavior of quarks".


Computer models cannot expand (or confirm) the frontiers of any research of any kind. All this has done is said "We made a computer program that gives us the results we would expect from running this computer program." Nothing in computer modeling makes a connection to reality and truth.

Re:Boycott ScienceDaily (1)

644bd346996 (1012333) | more than 6 years ago | (#22607528)

I'm pretty sure Haken and Appel would take exception to that.

Re:Boycott ScienceDaily (1)

Score Whore (32328) | more than 6 years ago | (#22607596)

I'm pretty sure Haken and Appel would take exception to that.


What did they model? The answer is: nothing, because math is not reality. They used a computer to create a proof of a mathematical problem. The rules of the problem do not map, or even purport to map, to the real world.

Re:Boycott ScienceDaily (1)

644bd346996 (1012333) | more than 6 years ago | (#22607676)

And yet the proof was all about mapping the real world...

Re:Boycott ScienceDaily (1)

Score Whore (32328) | more than 6 years ago | (#22607832)

No it wasn't. It was about coloring regions of an area when the regions are restricted to certain arbitrary criteria. For example it does not apply to non-contiguous regions.

Re:Boycott ScienceDaily (1)

wellingj (1030460) | more than 6 years ago | (#22607744)

math is not reality
I'm glad you cleared that up for us. I was confused.

Re:Boycott ScienceDaily (1)

Score Whore (32328) | more than 6 years ago | (#22607848)

You'd be surprised at how many people don't understand that fact.

Re:Boycott ScienceDaily (0, Troll)

a whoabot (706122) | more than 6 years ago | (#22607884)

When I think of reality, I think of anything which exists. If you're saying math is not reality, then are you saying math doesn't exist? (Assuming that when you say math is not reality, you're not saying math is the whole of reality, but only that it is part?)

Re:Boycott ScienceDaily (1)

Score Whore (32328) | more than 6 years ago | (#22607958)

No I mean that the arbitrary rules of logic and construction that are mathematics do not control or define the laws of the universe. Math is a language no different than any other language. The fact that I can describe something in English doesn't make what I describe a reality. Why would something I can describe in math be any more real?

Re:Boycott ScienceDaily (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22608022)

I guess it follows then that the math of Newtonian gravitation has no relation to ballistic object trajectories, and cannot be used to guide missiles?

And when we prove mathematically that there is no way to smoothly deform a sphere into a toroid , that has no relevance whatsoever on whether we can transform a rubber ball into a donut-shaped dog toy without cutting or gluing it?

The laws of nature are expressed in mathematics.

Re:Boycott ScienceDaily (2, Insightful)

OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) | more than 6 years ago | (#22609704)

What he really means is that newtonian physics are completely against his ideology (postmodernism) and therefore must be wrong.

FOR NOW it hasn't been proven that quantummechanics doesn't allow postmodern thought, although it HAS been proven that it's "limit" (ie. when we're not talking about trillionths of a second but about tenths) that it does indeed not allow the many-worlds view of the postmodernists.

This is a necessity to allow for the magic thinking that is required for postmodern interpretations of ... well anything. "Every truth is equal". At first glance quantum mechanics allows this, while newtonian physics does not.

This is obviously the real issue Einstein was referring to with his famous "God does not play dice".

Then again, to anyone with an ounce of sense it is clear that the postmodern interpretation of science is bullshit in the extreme. In fact it's worse. Science cannot co-exist with postmodernism, because it's basic premises are the exact reverse :

-> postmodernism : there is more than one truth (and so my truth is a valid one, and taken in the extreme : an electron will move however I think it moves)
-> science : there is a singular truth for everyone, and everything (ie. an electron behaves the same, whatever my theory about it's movement)

The problem is that many, many other ideas are absolutely dependant on postmodernism. Multiculturalism, for obvious reasons, is utterly dependant on this (wrong) interpretation. As is anything more atheist than agnosticism.

The real scientific way of thinking about the world is simple : there is one, singular set of laws that define the absolute, unchanging truth. These are completely dogmatic, and utterly independent of any human. There can be no votes about the truth, there can be no changing the truth, it is absolute. AND (and this is where a lot of "radical" people go wrong) we DO NOT know this truth (but we know a hell of a lot about it, and we know a hell of a lot of truths that certainly aren't correct).

Obviously this means that the universe itself has what could be called a "state religion". You'll get your ass kicked, by the proverbial God(s) themselves, unless your ideology/religion matches certain absolute truths.

Re:Boycott ScienceDaily (2, Insightful)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 6 years ago | (#22608050)

"Why would something I can describe in math be any more real?"

Don't know, but it often is - perhaps maths is just mapping the functioning of our perceptions. Anyway because math has been usefull we continue to use it to model the real world and make testable predictions. TFA is describing a prediction that the LHC may falsify.

Re:Boycott ScienceDaily (1)

Xabraxas (654195) | more than 6 years ago | (#22608104)

No I mean that the arbitrary rules of logic and construction that are mathematics do not control or define the laws of the universe. Math is a language no different than any other language. The fact that I can describe something in English doesn't make what I describe a reality. Why would something I can describe in math be any more real?

I disagree. Knowledge of math is a priori, language is not. There is a reason for this. While we still haven't unlocked all of the secrets of mathematical modeling there is hope that some day we will. Ultimately the goal is for all of science to converge on math. There are many philosophers and scientists alike who think this is going to happen and are actively working towards this goal today.

Re:Boycott ScienceDaily (1)

Linker3000 (626634) | more than 6 years ago | (#22608904)

It is when you get to the checkout of the supermarket get handed a bill.

(..ok, or your mom does..)

Re:Boycott ScienceDaily (4, Insightful)

jnana (519059) | more than 6 years ago | (#22607580)

All this has done is said "We made a computer program that gives us the results we would expect from running this computer program."

No, it's not nothing more than a tautology as you're implying. 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.

Nothing in computer modeling makes a connection to reality and truth.

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.

Re:Boycott ScienceDaily (2, Interesting)

Score Whore (32328) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

Re:Boycott ScienceDaily (1)

dmartin (235398) | more than 6 years ago | (#22607966)

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?
No, but you could do some very accurate classical mechanics calculations in order to compare them to experiment. While computers were not used, this method was used to calculate the orbit of Mercury, and it was found that using classical mechanics and the known planets that something was wrong. This gave us the hint that either something was wrong with gravity or that there were unknown planets. So by doing calculations of what you think is true and comparing to reality you can find where the holes in your knowledge are. As is well established by now, the perihilion precession of Mercury was due to a modification of gravity (see GR tests [wikipedia.org] ) rather than an extra planet.

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

...cannot expand (or confirm) the frontiers of [scientific] research...
I would agree that we cannot confirm scientific research using computers. But we don't really confirm scientific theories ever. Instead, we accumulate a body of evidence that is consistent with experiments.

The people in this article are not trying to calculate things looking for (mathematical) inconsistencies in the standard model. Instead, they are calculating hard processes in the standard model (usually to do with the nuclear force, for which our traditional methods do not work so well) and comparing them to experiment. Physicists have an atheistic prejudice against the standard model being the end of the story until we have to fit in quantum gravity (ignoring minor details like neutrino masses). Because of this we are looking hard to find where the standard model breaks down by comparing it to data. To compare the theory to data, we need to know what the theory predicts - hence the need for the supercomputers.

Bottom line -- the theoretical calculations (and uncertainties, both in the input and in various approximations made in making the model) are consistent with the experimental data. So which part of the standard model breaks first to let us know "what is beyond" is still a mystery.

I would agree that the article was somewhat lacking in details about which processes they analysed. I am not connected with the research group, but I was hoping someone here could fill us in on which processes the group was concentrating on.

Re:Boycott ScienceDaily (2, Informative)

jnana (519059) | more than 6 years ago | (#22607988)

If you can't observe the phenomena in the real world, then how do you know the model has any correspondence?

The whole point is that many phenomena are observable, and predictions by the model have been verified again and again. Those that cannot currently be verified may be verified in the future, and if they are falsified, that tells us that one of the simplifications that was made in order to create the computer program was not warranted or that there is some factor that our program failed to incorporate that turned out to be important.

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

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

The more successful predictions about new kinds of phenomena, particle interactions, etc. that we have, the more confidence we have in the theory. Colloquially speaking, those successful predictions help confirm the theory.

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's only engineering if we actually make the cars. When we run the model, it is just as much science as the experiment under consideration. The racecar/hummer example may not expand our knowledge, but you also said that it can't offer confirmation and has no relation to reality or truth. The important point is that modeling that makes new predictions about unseen phenomena that turn out to be correct is part of the process of moving from untested hypotheses to established science.

It will not allow you to prove or disprove new rules for fluid dynamics.

Now you're changing your story from "computer models cannot confirm ..." and "models have no relation to reality or truth" to "cannot prove or disprove new rules", whatever that is supposed to mean.

I get the feeling that I'm being trolled, since you apparently believe that all computer programs/models relating to the standard model and presumably general relativity and anything else that is not totally-settled-forever-science are absolutely worthless and have no relation to reality.

Re:Boycott ScienceDaily (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22609048)

You can, however, build a computer model that has very strong correlation with results already obtained, and use it to extrapolate results for experiments that are as of yet infeasible to perform in the real world. Obviously, those results will need to be experimentally verified, but they should give us an idea of what to look for, which does help immensely.

Re:Boycott ScienceDaily (2, Informative)

dario_moreno (263767) | more than 6 years ago | (#22609408)

the point is that 99% of physical equations are non-linear, N-body, ordinary or partial differential equations and thus do not have an analytical solution. So the only approach to check if as you say the hypothesis are correct is numerical. Even the great Fermi had to recur to an army of mechanical calculators staffed by humans to see if his equations had a meaning. Since Galileo mathematized physics there have been 300 years without computers so people (and teaching up to nowadays) are used to approximations and analytical solutions because it gives "beauty" and beautiful exercises ; but numerical analysis if properly taught can also be beautiful and give many insights.

Re:Boycott ScienceDaily (1)

killmofasta (460565) | more than 6 years ago | (#22608078)

Four Color Map Problem. (computer proof ).
Largest Prime.
Optimal Golumb Ruler.
Big bang simulation.
Black Hole Simulation.
Tuskunga Simulation.

Actually, Universal machines and cellular automata.
Monte Carlo statistical methods.

Airfoil design.
Traffic flow design.
Space Shuttle design.
ARCHITETUCRE.

"Nothing in computer modeling makes a connection to reality and truth."
I am sorry, I cannot agree. There are so many counter examples where computer simulation has

Space Shuttle design.
ARCHITETUCRE.

"Nothing in computer modeling makes a connection to reality and truth."
I am sorry, I cannot agree. There are so many counter examples where computer simulation has allowd us to understand reality as such a deeper level.

I suppose you dont believe in black holes since you never been sucked into one.
Nows your chance.

Re:Boycott ScienceDaily (4, Informative)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 6 years ago | (#22607454)

it's much worse than that, the article was pretty much mirrored from the source university of south hampton article here: http://www.soton.ac.uk/mediacentre/news/2008/feb/08_31.shtml [soton.ac.uk] which has absolutely nothing to add on the subject. three years of work and they don't even say what it is that they were modeling... what exactly was the point? perhaps a better article is required like the one here: http://www.physorg.com/news121963192.html [physorg.com]

Re:Boycott ScienceDaily (1)

jnana (519059) | more than 6 years ago | (#22607630)

The first two sentences from the physorg article give more information than the entire ScienceDaily article:

A new calculation, reported in the January 25, 2008 issue of Physical Review Letters, confirms the six-quark theory of particle-anti-particle asymmetry. This is the first complete calculation of this phenomenon to employ a highly accurate description of the quarks that adds a fifth dimension beyond those of space and time.

Which was my point exactly. Thanks for the link.

Re:Boycott ScienceDaily (1)

The_Wilschon (782534) | more than 6 years ago | (#22609804)

You might try going to the arXiv, and doing a search on the names of the authors. Most likely, if there is a popular press article about their work, they've also got a preprint up, if not an actual journal article yet.

Re:Boycott ScienceDaily (5, Informative)

ortholattice (175065) | more than 6 years ago | (#22607514)

I wish people would stop posting crappy science articles from ScienceDaily and related sites.
I've found a better site to be http://www.eurekalert.org/ [eurekalert.org] which is run by the AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) and has less annoying ads. A very high percentage of ScienceDaily stories - although oddly not this one - are the same as those on Eurakalert, but Eurakalert seems to have them first (at least based on RSS feed). I think Eurakalert also provides the original press release from the university/organization - not a watered-down, clueless-journalist-rewritten "adapted from materials provided by [university/organization]" - and also gives the link to the actual "materials", usually not provided by ScienceDaily.

Re:Boycott ScienceDaily (1)

jnana (519059) | more than 6 years ago | (#22607610)

Thanks for the reference. Eurekalert does look much better than ScienceDaily.

I get most of my science news from Science News [sciencenews.org] , which I'm really happy with, but they are a little slower (and more thorough), so a bit behind the quickest to publish.

I just wish Slashdot editors would exercise some judgment. A good first step would be never linking to ScienceDaily.

Re:Boycott ScienceDaily (1)

Jugalator (259273) | more than 6 years ago | (#22609762)

Ahh, so what this is really all about is that they've found support for why our universe weren't annihilated in an instant after the big bang due to a symmetry of particles and anti-particles. That they've found support for the six-quark theory that in turn open up the possibility, right in our Standard Model, for the particle-heavy universe we observe? Suddenly the outcome doesn't sound nearly as useless as ScienceDaily presented and well worth three years of calculations.

Article not just vague: spectacularly wrong! (1)

Roger W Moore (538166) | more than 6 years ago | (#22607796)

From TFA: the Standard Model, which encapsulates understanding of all the material that makes up the universe.

The Standard Model actually encapsulates understanding of just under 5% of the material which makes up the Universe. ~20% of the material is dark matter which is not consistent with any SM particle and ~75% is dark energy which we don't even have a good theory for!

Please Boycott ScienceDaily, read TechReview (1)

killmofasta (460565) | more than 6 years ago | (#22607798)

"There is nothing of substance in the article"
There is ABSOLUTLY NOTHING of substance in the article.
At Least you could have told us WHICH supercomputer/0
HECHoR is brand new, or Maxwell or some
beowolf cluster of bagpipes?

ScienceDaily is a terciary source. ( also its 'related' site are also devoid of interest' )
We should all just *ignore* it. Its not like there is any substance.
Much better is Scientific America, or MIT's TechReview.

The answer to life, the universe and everything (0, Offtopic)

lawn.ninja (1125909) | more than 6 years ago | (#22607260)

42.

Re:The answer to life, the universe and everything (1)

ILuvRamen (1026668) | more than 6 years ago | (#22607388)

so that's the actual charge of a quark! I KNEW IT! Wouldn't that be funny if it was too :P then again we don't really have a basis to guess and may not have a compatible unit of measure so let's just say it's 42 lol.

Re:The answer to life, the universe and everything (2, Funny)

lawn.ninja (1125909) | more than 6 years ago | (#22607414)

There is also the slight possiblity that we asked the wrong question.

Re:The answer to life, the universe and everything (1)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 6 years ago | (#22608106)

There is also the possibility that the computer might discover exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here. The end is near!

Or should I say the reboot?

Uncertainty (5, Funny)

Sorthum (123064) | more than 6 years ago | (#22607266)

So they talk about how fast this new supercomputer is.

I presume that means they have absolutely no idea where it is?

Mad Scientist Phone Pranks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22607468)

Me: Hello, Dr. Weird, is your super computer running?

Dr. Weird: Yes.

Me: Well, then you'd better go catch it. Hahaha!

Dr. Weird: ......

Dr. Weird: RELEASE THE PHONE SPIDERS!!!

Me: Huh, release the...what the hell? ARGHH! GET THEM OFF ME! *click*

Re:Uncertainty (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22608076)

Nice!

Re:Uncertainty (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22608084)

How does an AC get a score of -1 like that? It doesn't look moderated. And who would waste a mod point on an AC reply that most people won't even see, anyway?

Re:Uncertainty (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22608128)

I think that can happen when it is moderated "overrated".. that one doesn't apply a label (funny, troll, etc...)

Re:Uncertainty (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22608748)

So they talk about how fast this new supercomputer is.
I presume that means they have absolutely no idea where it is?


That was genuinely funny, clever, and appropriate.
It makes my "Large Hard-on Collider" joke seem pretty pathetic by comparison...

Doesn't run Linux (0, Offtopic)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 6 years ago | (#22607296)

it only runs Windows, and 1/2 of the CPU is devoted to managing reboots.

-1 Annoying

Something wrong here (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22607298)

What model do they use to model this? Doesn't seem surprising that the results jive!

Higgs (4, Informative)

Lord Byron II (671689) | more than 6 years ago | (#22607310)

Before we claim that the Standard Model is the end all of particle physics, lets see if we can find the Higgs Boson. Afterall, Fermilab has come very, very close, so the LHC should be able to seal the deal.

Re:Higgs (2, Insightful)

dreamchaser (49529) | more than 6 years ago | (#22607604)

I'm pretty sure Fermilab found the Higgs on a few occaisions. It's just that procedure calls for a certain number of data points before making such claims. It's still quite possible that Fermilab will announce solid findings on the Higgs before the LHC really even picks up steam. Either way, we should know in the next couple of years.

I for one am hoping they find something totally unexpected with the LHC.

Re:Higgs (1)

Iron Condor (964856) | more than 6 years ago | (#22608030)

I for one am hoping they find something totally unexpected with the LHC.

As cool as that would be (and I think it is actually quite likely) I tend to be more impressed by a new observational tool that finds exactly what was predicted then one that is used to "look at new weird stuff". Serendipitous discovery is good, but observational confirmation of what you think you know is the bread and butter of science.

Re:Higgs (1)

Cadallin (863437) | more than 6 years ago | (#22608588)

Say what? That's ri-damn-diculous. The "bread and butter of science" IS finding things that deviate with our predictions. That's how science progresses, and what makes it different from, and superior to, other methods of learning of about the world. Sure, we do other experiments to see if what learn, and think is true from a new novel result is correct, but that's not the exciting part. That's why those people don't get Nobel Prizes.

If all we did was poke at things and record how they behave in accordance with our expectations, we might as well close up shop, write everything down in a book (call it, oh, a Bible maybe), and do something else.

Re:Higgs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22609664)

They'll find something unexpected, bet on it.
The misguided will open a portal to the abyss.
Old story, new sheeple. Everyone has to play.

Unicorn

It has to be said... (2, Funny)

Toe, The (545098) | more than 6 years ago | (#22607420)

Supermodel Adds Credence to Standard Computer

Did Dell get Gisele Bündchen as a spokesmodel or something?

What, no gravity? (1)

Alwin Henseler (640539) | more than 6 years ago | (#22607428)

From the summary of the TFA (The Flimsy Article):

(..) however, it excludes the force of gravity, which is its shortcoming.
Gravity - (arguably) the most important if not strongest force that makes our universe into what it is, given the distances over which it works, and it is NOT included in a theory that's supposed to explain same universe. That's no small shortcoming indeed!

Maybe I'm naive in this respect, but IMHO the best theories (on any subject matter) are simply the ones that describe what we can observe in real life (aka empirical evidence) with the simplest/smallest set of rules. In the case of (the structure of) our universe, that should definitely include gravity.

Of course, no gravity! (3, Informative)

l2718 (514756) | more than 6 years ago | (#22607538)

Gravity -- certainly the weakest force -- is completely irrelevant as far as the physics of elementary particles is concerned. In real life there is no way to observe any kind of gravitational interactions on the scales where the other forces are relevant. In particular, if there is physics just beyond the standard model it need not have any connection to gravity. It's true that gravity is relevant on extremely large scales, but for these scales we have perfectly good theories (GR; in fact Newtonian gravity is quite sufficient in almost all cases). You'd have to go to Planck scale before there'll be any guarantee of gravitational effects playing a role.

This is not to say that a quantum theory including gravity is not an important goal of theoretical physics, it's just to say that so far we have not found any real-life situations where such a theory would be needed, that is when corrections due to quantum gravity would play any role whatsoever. Hopefully the LHC will probe the physics beyond the standard model. The number of orders of magnitude between the energy scales we can actually observe and the quantum gravity energy scale make it extremely unlikely, however, that gravity will be relevant to experimental fundamental physics for many millenia.

Re:Of course, no gravity! (2, Insightful)

kestasjk (933987) | more than 6 years ago | (#22607866)

Gravity -- certainly the weakest force -- is completely irrelevant as far as the physics of elementary particles is concerned.
Unless you're talking about the big bang, which is what this computation is all about trying to understand.

The big bang is a long way off ... (1)

l2718 (514756) | more than 6 years ago | (#22607942)

Unless you're talking about the big bang, which is what this computation is all about trying to understand.

Actually, this computation has nothing to do with the big bang. This a computation is about trying to see whether we can make sufficiently accurate (computer) calculations within QCD (our theory of quarks and elementary particles made from them) to understand particles at ordinary energy scales. This is actually quite hard (for reasons that would be hard to explain here). Making sure QCD correctly predicts the mass of the proton should come before worrying about the big bang (where physics beyond QCD will play a role anyway, and where we don't have any experimental data to compare our calculations with).

For a different perpsective, before worrying about incorporating gravity, you might want to note that this calculation only involved the 3 lightest quarks (up, down and strange), completely neglecting contributions from processes involving the other 3 quarks.

Re:Of course, no gravity! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22609112)

OF course there's the very interesting idea of an Electric Universe [google.nl] ..


Definitely a video worth watching!

Re:Of course, no gravity! (1)

porkThreeWays (895269) | more than 6 years ago | (#22609506)

I for one am interested in gravity the most! How it can be trillions of times weaker than the other 3 forces raises some very interesting questions. I've seen some put forth the idea that perhaps gravity is so weak because it exists is higher dimensions as well. Or even the possibility that gravity can interact with parallel universes. We may not gain a whole lot as a society by understanding gravity, but I think the very fact it is so strange and we so little about it alone makes me so interested.

Re:What, no gravity? (1)

lexarius (560925) | more than 6 years ago | (#22607550)

It's been several years since I've taken any physics courses, but I seem to recall that gravity is the weakest of all the forces. At the subatomic scale its effects are negligible compared to the other forces. It makes a large impact in the cosmic scale due to the distance at which it works as well as the large mass of celestial bodies compared to, say, their electromagnetic charge.

Re:What, no gravity? (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 6 years ago | (#22607624)

Well, the difference between gravitation and electromagnetism causing the former to dominate the large-scale structures of the universe is that electric charges of the same sign repell each other, while those of opposite sign attract each other. Therefore bodies tend to get electrically neutral. In gravity OTOH equal masses attract each other (indeed, there probably isn't negative mass at all), which means there's no neutralization. Indeed, by attracting more mass, gravity even increases.

after three years ... (2, Funny)

BenBoy (615230) | more than 6 years ago | (#22607434)

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.

If my own purchases are any indication, three years out the damned thing's now completely outmoded, and a pocket calculator will do the same thing ...

My mind hurts (1)

Bluewraith (1226564) | more than 6 years ago | (#22607470)

I'm just trying to think of how I would react, knowing that a computer was going to take 3 years to finish a task. Can you imagine staring at the status bar for that?

Actually, yes. I can. (2, Funny)

symbolset (646467) | more than 6 years ago | (#22607672)

I'm just trying to think of how I would react, knowing that a computer was going to take 3 years to finish a task. Can you imagine staring at the status bar for that?

I'm copying 2GB of photos from a share to my pen drive under Vista right now, so I don't have to imagine it.

Re:My mind hurts (1)

Iron Condor (964856) | more than 6 years ago | (#22608062)

I'm just trying to think of how I would react, knowing that a computer was going to take 3 years to finish a task. Can you imagine staring at the status bar for that?

Now given that the speed of computers supposedly doubles every 18 months, instead of building a computer now and let it number-crunch for three years, you could wait 18 months while letting your money earn interest; then buy the then biggest computer and do the same computation in half the time...

Re:My mind hurts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22608768)

Have I got this right? We're about to turn on the Haydron Collider, and we have no idea what will happen?

TFA - enjoy... :) (2, Informative)

djupedal (584558) | more than 6 years ago | (#22607472)

Supercomputer Confirms Standard Model Theory Of The Universe, Deepens Puzzle

ScienceDaily (Feb. 29, 2008) -- Scientists have used a supercomputer to shed new light on one of the most important theories of physics, the Standard Model, which encapsulates understanding of all the material that makes up the universe. This 30-year-old theory explains all the known elementary particles and three of the four forces acting upon them - however, it excludes the force of gravity, which is its shortcoming.

Physicists have been trying to find the missing pieces in the jigsaw that would extend the Standard Model into a complete theory of all the forces of nature. However, the landmark findings by researchers at the Universities of Edinburgh and Southampton, and their partners in Japan and the US, confirm the Standard Model to even greater precision than before, deepening the puzzle.

The project's enormously complex calculations relate to the behaviour 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.

Professor Chris Sachrajda of the University of Southampton's School of Physics and Astronomy said: 'Modern supercomputers and improved theoretical techniques are allowing us to explore the limits of the Standard Model to an unprecedented precision. The next stage will be to combine such computations with new experimental results expected from the Large Hadron Collider to unravel the next level of fundamental physics.'

Professor Richard Kenway of the University of Edinburgh's School of Physics added: 'Although the Standard Model has been a fantastic success, there were one or two dark corners where experimental tests had been inconclusive, because vital calculations were not accurate enough. We shone a light on one of these, but to our enormous frustration, nothing was lurking there.'

The research, published in Physical Review Letters, was supported by the Science and Technology Facilities Council.

Adapted from materials provided by University of Southampton [soton.ac.uk] .

Re:TFA - enjoy... :) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22607990)

Karma whore.

If you're just copy/pasting the article, post anonymously.

Re:TFA - enjoy... :) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22608298)

Karma whore. If you're just copy/pasting the article, post anonymously.

The guy has made more than 2000 posts. Unless he's a complete moron his karma maxed out long ago. Mine has been maxed out since before they stopped telling you the actual number, and that maximum was, and I assume still is, only 50.

I asked my supercomputer... (4, Funny)

NotQuiteReal (608241) | more than 6 years ago | (#22607476)

"Is the Standard Model correct?"

I only had to wait a few seconds for the answer: "Reply hazy, try again".

In other words... (1)

imstanny (722685) | more than 6 years ago | (#22607480)

Observable phenomenon(s) > Theory.


I would have to agree. Observations tend to provide "eureka" information that theory might miss or not become main stream for a while. Running models can extol supercomputers to a point - and peer reviews may be a big obstacle to the progress of science in many ways. I hope CERN offers us some groundbreaking material.

Theory and Experiment equally important (3, Interesting)

Roger W Moore (538166) | more than 6 years ago | (#22607740)

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.

I Can Add Credence (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22607674)

I Can Add Credence to a Standard Model and all I need is an eight-track.

Validity of Computation Reinforcement? (1)

Octavarius (1141157) | more than 6 years ago | (#22608438)

I always wonder about experiments like this: exactly how certain can we be that the calculations aren't simply producing the theorized result because the calculations assume the theory (directly or indirectly) to begin with?

It's a subtle point, but I think it's something that should always be double checked. How do we know that our mathematical equations apply in all simulated situations, and that they don't break down under different circumstances? What assumptions are we making about reality, and how sure are we that they remain true under the circumstances being calculated?

IANAP, so I really have no clue how to begin answering these questions, but I think they should always be asked.

Observation and Simulation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22608964)

A simulation uses models and laws from a theory. Observation is not affected by the theory itself. It is separate from the theory. It's easy to see that one does not equal the other unless the simulation makes use of laws and models already proven by observation. In this case, aren't the researchers involved in this project acting like George Bush when he declared the war in Iraq to be over?

That's nothing! (1)

Katatsumuri (1137173) | more than 6 years ago | (#22609316)

My modest computer adds credence to FSM daily, and it doesn't boast of being super duper, although I think it is.
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