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Supercomputing Space Science

Simulated Universe 332

Posted by Zonk
from the not-the-matrix dept.
anonymous lion writes "A story in the Guardian Unlimited reports on The Millennium Simulation saying that it is 'the biggest exercise of its kind'. It required 25 million megabytes of memory to take our universe's initial conditions along with the known laws of physics to create this simulated universe." From the article: "The simulated universe represents a cube of creation with sides that measure 2bn light years. It is home to 20m galaxies, large and small. It has been designed to answer questions about the past, but it offers the tantalising opportunity to fast-forward in time to the slow death of the galaxies, billions of years from now."
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Simulated Universe

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  • by Uppity Nigger (889082) on Friday June 03, 2005 @08:26PM (#12719525)
    I think my PC can handle it.
  • by daveschroeder (516195) * on Friday June 03, 2005 @08:26PM (#12719526)
    The University of Wisconsin [wisc.edu] has deployed 200 TB of storage for support of similar types of experiments as part of the Grid Laboratory of Wisconsin [wisc.edu].

    Brief article, with pictures:

    University of Wisconsin deploys nearly 200TB of Xserve RAID storage [alienraid.org] (Google cache [google.com])

    The storage is used for, among other things, particle physics simulations in support of research projects at sites such as the Large Hadron Collider [web.cern.ch] at CERN [cern.ch]. More information on GLOW and its initiatives can be found here [wisc.edu].

    Text of the above article:

    The University of Wisconsin - Madison has deployed 35 5.6TB Xserve RAID storage arrays in a single research installation as part of an ongoing scientific computing initiative.

    The Grid Laboratory of Wisconsin (GLOW), a partnership between several research departments at the University of Wisconsin, have installed almost 200TB, or 200,000GB, of Xserve RAID arrays. As a comparison, 200TB of storage is enough to hold 2.75 years of high definition video, 25,000 full length DVD movies, 323,000 CDs, 20 printed collections of the Library of Congress, or over 1000 Wikipedias.

    The GLOW storage installation is physically split between the departments of Computer Sciences and High Energy Physics. Each Xserve RAID is attached to a dedicated Linux node running Fedora Core 3 via an Apple Fibre Channel PCI-X Card and is either directly accessed via various mechanisms, such as over the network via gigabit ethernet, or aggregated using tools such as dCache.

    The storage is primarily used to act as a holding area for large amounts of data from experiments such as the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) and ATLAS experiments at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN.

    Aside from the GLOW initiative, the university also has Xserve RAID storage systems in use in other areas as well.


    Full disclosure: I am the administrator of alienraid.org and am affiliated with the University of Wisconsin.
  • by brickballs (839527) <brickballs.gmail@com> on Friday June 03, 2005 @08:26PM (#12719528) Homepage
    "25 million megabytes of memory"

    man, just when i thought 2 gigs was a lot...
  • Whoa this is slashdot - news for nerds, convert to metric please,
    or least use Giga or Tera :P
  • by rebug (520669) on Friday June 03, 2005 @08:27PM (#12719535)
    Just type "FUND" a few hundred times.

    Do it before you build anything, because it causes earthquakes.
  • longhorn (Score:3, Funny)

    by systemofadown (885733) on Friday June 03, 2005 @08:29PM (#12719544) Homepage
    isn't how much memory longhorn need to run?
  • I thought (Score:3, Interesting)

    by CastrTroy (595695) on Friday June 03, 2005 @08:29PM (#12719548) Homepage
    I thought that they really hadn't even figured out how the universe worked. They have stuff like stars that are older than some estimates of the universe's age, and missing matter in the form of dark matter that they can't account for. How are they supposed to simulate the universe, if the model they have is so badly flawed.
    • Re:I thought (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 03, 2005 @08:34PM (#12719594)

      They have stuff like stars that are older than some estimates of the universe's age

      No, they don't. This has happened a few times in the past, e.g., when they didn't know about the different populations of stars, but currently there isn't an age problem.

      and missing matter in the form of dark matter that they can't account for

      We don't know what dark matter is, but we know enough about its gravitational properties -- that's why it was postulated to exist, after all -- to simulate its effects on these scales.

      How are they supposed to simulate the universe, if the model they have is so badly flawed.

      The models we have are not as badly flawed as you think they are. But even if they are flawed, that's the point of the simulation: to test the validity of the model. If the simulation's results don't agree with observations, then that tells us about where the model fails.
    • Re:I thought (Score:3, Insightful)

      by willpall (632050)
      That's probobly why they didn't name it, "Super Duper Accurate and Exact Precision Model of the Universe".

      Welcome to science, where no matter how far you come along, there's always a ways more to go. Today's models are flawed, but not nearly as much as yesterday's. And even if the Dark Matter mysteries or older-than-time star mysteries are resolved, I'm sure there will be other mysteries we have yet to discover. These simulations are a part of that process.

    • Re:I thought (Score:2, Interesting)

      by mindstrm (20013)
      They haven't, that's why you build a simulator.. to explore various ideas.

      A flight simulator does not perfectly simulate flight, but it does let you see what effect different changes have based on your mathematical models. Same idea here..
  • by GPLDAN (732269) on Friday June 03, 2005 @08:30PM (#12719560)
    #top

    PID USER PRI NI SIZE RSS SHARE STAT LIB %CPU %MEM TIME COMMAND
    561 ganesh 13 0 58876 25000000M 1044 S 0 0.7 95.1 68:51 universe
  • Google Maps (Score:4, Funny)

    by msbmsb (871828) on Friday June 03, 2005 @08:30PM (#12719563)
    So when will Google Maps be available for this universe?
    • Re:Google Maps (Score:3, Interesting)

      by FleaPlus (6935)
      In all seriousness, the interface used by Google Maps seems like it would be well-suited for dealing with astronomical imaging data.
      • Funny you should bring that up. My advisor, a well-respected astrophysicist, was making a lengthy joke about extending google maps / keyhole all the way out to the local group. I'm not sure that it would work so well, because it's necessarily a two-dimensional interface, and the data is 3-d. If you mean as a planetarium interface, I think I could agree with you there.

        Right now, the best 3-d data viewer that I've seen is Partiview [haydenplanetarium.org] which was designed by Stuart Levy at NCSA and is hosted by AMNH with a co
  • Dudes... (Score:5, Funny)

    by GeorgeMcBay (106610) on Friday June 03, 2005 @08:32PM (#12719574)
    What if we're in a simulated universe, simulating other universes?

    Whoaaa.

    Pass the bong, dude.
    • Thorem 4.5.3 covers this.
      http://www.cse.ohio-state.edu/~gurari/theory-bk/th eory-bk-fourse5.html [ohio-state.edu]
      Just read up to Th. 4.5.3.
      QED.
    • What if we're in a simulated universe, simulating other universes?

      Whoaaa.

      Pass the bong, dude.
      Apparently, others have been smoking that same stuff and taking it pretty seriously.

      Take a look at Tipler's website on the Omeha Point. [tulane.edu]. As bizarre as it may sound, there just might be something there.
  • Oh, great (Score:3, Funny)

    by Marko DeBeeste (761376) on Friday June 03, 2005 @08:32PM (#12719575)
    Now we're going to /. the cosmos.
  • This seems like a problem for BlueGene to solve, lets email the raw data input files to the group at LLNL they can do all the calculations in a matter of seconds and then tell us why the answer is 42...! There seems to be too much data involved, seems like a plot by the storage companies to sell crapp SATA disks and bad RAID cards.
  • by XXIstCenturyBoy (617054) on Friday June 03, 2005 @08:33PM (#12719583)
    I always though that a computer large enough to handle a simulation of the universe would allow us to predict the future, even at individual level if the simulation was advanced enough.

    And then I realized that the smallest simulation of the universe would probably be the size of the universe.

    It got very confusing at that point.
    • by Jeremi (14640)
      And then I realized that the smallest simulation of the universe would probably be the size of the universe.


      Bah... the universe is mostly empty space. It would compress nicely.

      • "Bah... the universe is mostly empty space. It would compress nicely."
        In truth, no space is empty; and you can compress the data, but then you will not have a perfect simulation; your computer will take longer to process the data than the span of the events which are occuring. As far as predicting the future goes, it would be useless, because the real universe would complete its 'calculations' long before your more space-efficient machine did--you would in effect only be able to 'predict' the past.
      • Sure, but the enthropy is the killer here. The more you compress it, the more volatile it becomes.

        Compress it too much, and it might just explo ...

        Wait ... maybe that's what REALLY happend just prior to the big bang?
    • by Vellmont (569020) on Friday June 03, 2005 @09:48PM (#12720022)
      The uncertainty principle makes this an impossibility. Even if you could somehow simulate everything you could never get the exact initial conditions of even one particle. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uncertainty_principle [wikipedia.org]

  • They can simulate the universe but can't withstand a slashdotting? ...
  • 25 Million MB? And you thought *your* machine took a long time to POST!
  • Ho Hum ..... If you REALLY want to impress people, then design a simulation of how corporate management ( and IT in particular) thinks and behaves.
    • Ho Hum ..... If you REALLY want to impress people, then design a simulation of how corporate management ( and IT in particular) thinks and behaves.

      Once you realize that they don't think, their behavior becomes trivial.

      - shazow
  • It'll save him having to leave his desk.
  • Prophet [wikipedia.org]?
  • Journalists will use it to work up stories without having to leave their offices. The only thing we need now is a piece of fairy cake.
  • And when you realize that you're an infinitesimal dot on an infinitesimal dot, you'll go completely stark raving mad. Unless you're in a personal pocket universe, of course, in which case you're the most important thing in it.
  • Recent advances in cosmology demonstrate that about 70 percent of our Universe currently consists of Dark Energy, a mysterious force field which is causing it to expand ever more rapidly. About one quarter apparently consists of Cold Dark Matter, a new kind of elementary particle not yet directly detected on Earth.

    This is stated as fact, not theory, but how can it be a scietific fact if it can not be detected, measured, and independetely verified?
    • You seem to be a bit hard-nosed about the distinction between "fact" and "theory". There's not such a hard line between the two.

      Calling something a scientific fact makes it sound like there's no way to disprove it ever. It's Truth with a capital T. Calling something a theory makes it sound like you're talking about something extremely uncertain. In reality there isn't such a thing as a fact (at least in Science, maybe there is in Perry Mason). Even newtons laws of gravity is just a theory. It's true
  • by Weaselmancer (533834) on Friday June 03, 2005 @08:54PM (#12719746)

    ...with this pocket calculator stuff.

  • by Garabito (720521) on Friday June 03, 2005 @08:58PM (#12719773)
    And if it does, the simulator in the simulated universe simulates other universe?

    And if it does, does it include the simulator?

    And this simulator...
  • by Anonymous Coward
    The simulated universe represents a cube of creation

    It represents 4 simultaneous cubes of creation. Dumbass!
  • One small detail (Score:3, Insightful)

    by FunWithHeadlines (644929) on Friday June 03, 2005 @09:08PM (#12719829) Homepage
    "but it offers the tantalising opportunity to fast-forward in time to the slow death of the galaxies, billions of years from now"

    Assuming your assumptions and input are correct, of course.

    • True, but one of the virtues of this type of science is that the initial conditions are extremely well known from WMAP and other CMB data. The in between stuff, from the dark ages up through reionization or thereabouts are not well known -- for example, the first generation of stars. (A problem this simulation is many, many orders of magnitude from resolving, but a problem I work on for a living.)
    • Otherwise thats one extremely expensive computer game.

      Hardly even a strategy game. Hell, not even real time!

      Maybe the graphics are decent though, they've obviously found someone willing to pay to watch other people play it.

      • Hardly even a strategy game. Hell, not even real time! Maybe the graphics are decent though, they've obviously found someone willing to pay to watch other people play it.

        In about 10 years, it'll make one hell of an xlock screensaver. ;)

  • Have you ever been to The 13th Floor [imdb.com]?
  • by egburr (141740)
    Who cares about the end of the universe? Fast forward it to 2006 so I can make plans for next year.
  • At least this was going around when I was at Berkeley:

    NEW OPERATING SYSTEM:

    Because so many users have asked for an operating system of even greater capability than VM, IBM announces the Virtual Universe Operating System --- OS/VU.

    Running under VU the individual user appears to have not merely a machine of his own, but an entire universe of his own, in which he can set up and take down his own programs, data sets, system networks, personnel and planetary systems. He need only specify the universe he desires, and the OS/VU system generation program (IEHGOD) does the rest. This program resides in SYS1.GODLIB. The minimum time for this function is 6 days of activity and 1 day of review. In conjunction with OS/VU, all system utilities reside in SYS1.MESSIAH. This program has no parms or control cards, as it knows what you want to do when you execute it.

    Naturally, the user must have attained a certain degree of sophistication in the data processing field if an efficient utilization of OS/VU is to be achieved. Frequent calls to non-resident galaxies can, for instance, lead to unexpected delays in the execution of a job. Although IBM, through its wholly-owned subsidiary, the United States, is working on a program to upgrade the speed of light and thus reduce the overhead of extraterrestrial and metadimensional paging, users must be careful for the present to stay within the laws of physics. IBM must charge an additional fee for violations.

    OS/VU will run on any IBM x0xx equipped with the Extended WARP Feature. Rental is 20 million dollars per cpu/nanosecond.

    Users should be aware that IBM plans to migrate all existing systems and hardware to OS/VU as soon as our engineers effect one output that is (conceptually) error free. This will give us a base to develop an even more powerful OS, target date 2001, designated as 'Virtual Reality'. OS/VR is planned to allow the user to migrate to totally unreal universes. To aid the user in identifying the difference between 'Virtual Reality' and 'Real Reality', a file containing a linear record of multisensory total records of successive moments of now will be established. It's name will be SYS1.EST.
  • But does it explain why number 42 is so important?
  • When you simulate stuff as complex as our universe with the precision of such a project, if only one theory is wrong, one small theory, the entire set of conclusions will have to be revised or worse, tossed aside.
  • How many libraries of Congress is that?
  • Will it find the Question? I mean, honestly, if Earth won't do it, the whole goddamn Universe ought to have a crack at it.
  • A really massive MMORPG engine. Now, what about the storyline?

  • by Proudrooster (580120) on Friday June 03, 2005 @10:10PM (#12720129) Homepage
    So let me get this straight. We can put together enough hardware to simulate the universe, YET WE ARE UNABLE TO PREDICT THE FREAKING WEATHER.

    Instead, put all those computers together to model the earth's weather and use the laws of physics to tell me if I should take off next Friday to play golf or schedule a trip to Disney in late August. Geez........
    • We can put together enough hardware to simulate the universe, YET WE ARE UNABLE TO PREDICT THE FREAKING WEATHER.

      Not sure if you were trolling, but simulating the universe requires only the equations for gravity and relativity to be simulated (physicists, please correct me if quantum mech is also required). Either way, those are non-chaotic systems. Weather prediction (fluid mechanics) involves solving the Navier-Stokes equations, which is computationally difficult.

      You can however make better predictions

  • We can conclusively dis/prove the existence of god, when all simulation model successfully/fail to produce "intelligent life" as we know it in the simulated universe.
  • If the earth simulator presupposes that the universes are slowly going to decay into entropy, what about the "force" that is causing the galaxies to accellerate away from each-other? I'd like to see it's prediction of what would happen on the other side of the asymptote.
  • I have a Macintosh. Will my slow thread-spawning hinder this simulation?

  • Since building a computer to simulate the universe would require more matter than is available in the entire universe (which would entirely ignore the computer itself and the effect it has on the containing universe), the physical resolution of this particular simulation must be much less than that of the real universe.

    Which could explain why the /. karma system is the way it is :-)
    • Err, why?

      Couldnt you just slow down the matter emulation to a speed like... 1/10^1000 and watch in slo-mo?
      • How would you store the state and location of every single partical and photon in the universe?
        • Quantum entangled matrix.

          And you dont have to keep track of every particle in the universe... Just the opposite, you have to only keep track of those entangled with each oter (assumption that max entanglement rate is C away per second from all particles in entanglement with each other).

          Well, that and Im sure you could eliminate many 'variables' by compressing them completely and inserting null fields.
  • In order to create an accurate simulation of the universe, the simulation would have to be as complex as the universe itself. That means it has to be able to store as much data as the universe is capable storing, ergo, the only possible simulation of the universe is the universe itself.
  • It's only 2bn light years across but Professor Moriarty will never know the difference.
  • They are going to tell us how the universe ends with 25 million megabytes and the kmown laws of physics when it's not possible to just break one decently encrypted message with all the computer power in the world in less than expected remaining life of our solar system?

Do not simplify the design of a program if a way can be found to make it complex and wonderful.

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