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First-ever antimatter hypernucleus detected and confirmed

HPC plus collider equals new piece of reality

Late last week Berkeley Lab announced that researchers using NERSC’s HPC systems and the Brookhaven National Laboratory’s Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) have detected and confirmed the first-ever antimatter hypernucleus.

Typcial STAR eventTranslated, the newly detected “antihypertriton” means a nucleus of antihydrogen containing one antiproton and one antineutron—plus one heavy relative of the antineutron, an antilambda hyperon.

What was the role of the 100,000 hours of computation in all this? Set your WABAC Machine for the Big Bang at the beginning of…well…everything

This very hot cosmic stew of free floating fundamental particles, including quarks, antiquarks and gluons is known as the quark-gluon plasma. As the universe expanded and cooled, the quarks recombined in a variety of ways to make protons and neutrons (consisting solely of up and down quarks), hyperons (which contain strange quarks) and all of the associated antiparticles. Because quarks and antiquarks exist in equal numbers in the quark-gluon plasma, the cooling gas produces both matter and antimatter. Eventually, a small fraction of these particles combined to form light nuclei and their antiparticles like the antihypertritons detected by the STAR collaboration. To identify this hypernucleus, physicists used supercomputers at NERSC and other research centers to painstakingly sift through the debris of some 100 million collisions.

The team also used NERSC’s PDSF system to simulate detector response. …”These simulations were vital to helping us optimize search conditions such as topology of the decay configuration,” says Zhangbu Xu, a physicist at Brookhaven who is part of the STAR collaboration. “By embedding imaginary antimatters in a real collision and optimizing the simulations for the best selection conditions, we were able to find a majority of those embedded particles.”

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