Simulation Examines the Mysteries of Carbon-14
A team led by David Dean of Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) is using ORNL’s petascale Jaguar supercomputer to examine the carbon-14 nucleus. This isotope’s 5,700-year half-life is a boon to archeologists and historians, but a mystery to nuclear physicists. Allowing researchers to date carbon-containing relics going back as far as 60,000 years, it does not seem to fit in with the half-lives of its nearest nuclear neighbors, which are typically a few minutes or even a few seconds.
Dean and his teammates — Hai Ah Nam of ORNL, James Vary and Pieter Maris of Iowa State University, and Petr Navratil and Erich Ormand of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory — are exploring the carbon-14 nucleus with an application known as Many Fermion Dynamics, nuclear (MFDn), created by Vary. The team used nearly 150,000 of Jaguar’s more than 180,000 computing cores (the entire XT5 partition of the machine), and the application is ready to scale to even more cores as they become available.
Jaguar’s power allows the team to depart from other nuclear structure studies in three important respects. It is working directly from the strong-force interactions of the quarks and gluons within each nucleon, taking a “no-core” approach that incorp