Perimeter Institute: How supercomputers can help us understand the universe

MIT physicist Phiala Shanahan explains why solving the mysteries of the subatomic realm means pushing the world’s most powerful computers to their breaking point
By TVO News - Published on November 7, 2018
Phiala Shanahan
Phiala Shanahan of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology was one of Forbes magazine’s 30 Under 30 in science in 2017.

If you went to school in the late 20th century, you were taught that the nucleus of an atom was made of protons and neutrons, full stop. But, in fact, within atoms, there are even smaller subatomic particles called quarks and gluons — and understanding them has become one of the central challenges of physics.

Quarks and gluons are so small — and the way they interact is so mysterious — that scientists have turned to the world’s largest supercomputers in search of answers.

Phiala Shanahan, a physics professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and one of Forbes magazine’s 30 Under 30 in science in 2017, discussed this challenge at the Perimeter Institute Wednesday evening. She talked about the subatomic realm and what quarks and gluons can reveal about dark matter and the nuclear reactions that power the sun. If you missed the lecture, you can view a replay of it here:

The Perimeter Institute’s public lectures are generally held once a month. TVO.org will stream the entire 2018–19 series.

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