Explaining the bang: Stanford center defines new objectives

Scientists at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center are filling their databases mostly with information from BaBar, an experiment named for the fictional elephant of children's literature. They are creating subatomic particles called B-Mesons and their antimatter equivalents, and then colliding them into one another.

When the universe began, matter and antimatter should have quickly eliminated each other, said Richard Mount, director of SLAC's Computing Services and assistant director of SLAC's Research Division. A matter-filled universe suggests that there was an asymmetry between matter and antimatter in the beginning. BaBar is intended to help explain why that imbalance existed. "This is an excellent system for studying the small asymmetries between matter and antimatter," he said. "When we create [the particles], we certainly believe they are created in equal numbers, but as they travel across space they can change into each other at slightly different rates until we see an asymmetry that we can measure here." The collisions generate great amounts of data, but much of it is expected and can be dismissed as noise, Mount said. The remaining data is about 25 kilobytes per explosion, which has added up to a petabyte since SLAC began using a database from Objectivity Inc. in 1999.

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