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Meet Mira, the Supercomputer That Makes Universes

The Atlantic (09/25/12) Ross Andersen

One of the largest and most complex universe simulations ever attempted will be run in October by Mira, the world’s third fastest supercomputer.  The model will condense more than 12 billion years’ worth of cosmic evolution into two weeks, tracking trillions of particles as they form into the universe’s web-like structure.  Argonne National Laboratory physicist Salman Habib says this structure remains consistent over many universe simulations of increasing scale.  He says the size of supercomputers such as Mira, which has nearly a petabyte of memory, makes universe simulations possible thanks to the tremendous increase in speed.  “If you tried to do a simulation like this on a normal computer, you wouldn’t be able to fit it, and even if you could fit it, if you tried to run it, it would never finish,” Habib notes.  He predicts that next-generation computers may require new models for programming, powering, or error correction because the physical limits of Moore’s Law will have been reached.  “There is some hope that there will be investment [in technologies to exponentially ramp up computer speed], because supercomputer simulations are increasingly being used outside the basic sciences,” Habib says.

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