Wednesday, September 27, 2006

A Simulated Universe

In the last-to-last research group meeting we had, I had raised a proposal that besides research, we discuss other topics of interest just as food-for-thought. Some of them sponteneously stumbled upon the argument shooting questions at me "What are we going to discuss? Physics?" (Physics since last semester I had a brief presentation on quantum gravity in one of the casual meetings and when folks asked me why such a topic which is so much poles apart from my research area, I blurted out that I am a big fan of physics, especially astrophysics!). Anyway, our advisor totally acknowledged my proposal to discuss stuff like physics and just casually mentioned one of the books he is currently reading "Programming the Universe: A Quantum Computer Scientist Takes On the Cosmos".
Today I was just recalling that and thought would look for the book or some recent interesting work going on about the computational aspects of astrophysics. Coincidentally, I just came upon this interesting article. Basically the article discusses the recent research which has been done to build a duplicate universe as a computer simulation. Although I would strongly suggest you to go through the article, but some of the things I found too captivating not to discuss in the blog! For example, they say that 70% of the universe comprises something unknown called 'dark energy' which acts like kind of an anti-gravity pulling apart the universe elements like galaxies from each other. The designers of the artificial universe are also very excited about the flexibility that in the simulation they can go back in time or fast-forward time to see the various unsolved questions about the role of black holes and quasars in defining the fate of the universe. The article says,
The Millennium Simulation - the biggest exercise of its kind - required 25 million megabytes of memory. But it tracked the 14bn-year history of creation in months and now offers a tool to explore mysterious events in galaxies far away and long ago."
This humongous nature of the simulation project is not only a big achievement in the realm of computational physics, but also an amazing and spectacular consideration for computer scientists! Being one of the latter and with a tremendous interest in the former, it would be an exciting pursuit to keep track of this simulation of the universe: how this actually works out to solve the astro-mystries and conjure up another "A Brief History of Time" all over again! Probably it can then address the much talked of fiction element: whether time is a continuous straight line or a continuous circle, looping over and over...

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