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Canadian HPC Powering an International Search for Answers to the Earth's Origin

Spotlight On:

Hirohisa Tanaka
University of British Columbia
Physics & Astronomy

The July 2012 discovery of a Higgs boson-like particle put anti-matter on the front page of newspapers around the world and brought scientists closer to understanding and explaining the subatomic building blocks of the universe. Another international project, powered by WestGrid and Compute Canada computing systems, has similar potential for shedding light on the origin of the universe’s matter/anti-matter asymmetry.

The Tokai-to-Kamioka (T2K) experiment is a collaboration of nearly 500 scientists, including approximately 40 scientists and graduate students at seven Canadian universities (Alberta, British Columbia, Regina, Toronto, Victoria, Winnipeg, York) and TRIUMF. In this experiment, a neutrino beam produced by a proton accelerator complex in eastern Japan is directed towards Super-Kamiokande, a large neutrino detector 295 km away.

"The neutrino is a fundamental particle that plays a fundamental role in how stars like the sun produce energy and the evolution of the universe," says Hirohisa Tanaka, Associate Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of British Columbia, and one of the project's Canadian team members. "T2K-Canada has played a leading role in the experiment by contributing key components for producing and detecting neutrinos, and is now playing a critical role in the analysis of the data. Our recent studies found evidence for muon neutrinos converting to electron neutrinos, and are the first steps towards understanding how anti-matter may have disappeared from the universe."

In 2010-2012, T2K-Canada and its Canadian HPC facilities provided nearly half of the computing resources required for data processing and simulation for the experiment.

"Thanks to WestGrid and Compute Canada, Canadian particle physicists participating in T2K are at the forefront of developing algorithms to more effectively study our neutrinos, leading to more sensitive and precise results with greater scientific impact. These exciting intellectual developments would be impossible without our HPC resources," says Tanaka.