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Cosmic Code Building

Cosmologists today are conjuring "digital recipes" for mimicking the universe's structure and history. By running these "recipes" on powerful supercomputers, they can try out alternative models and compare the results against what the astronomers can actually observe. No longer is cosmology closeted from the real universe.

Jeremiah Ostriker, Princeton University, on-camera
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But for a cosmological model to be scientifically meaningful--that is, to make useful predictions that can be tested against observation--it must satisfy the following requirements:

Modern cosmology rests upon a coherent theoretical foundation, namely the Big Bang Theory coupled to inflation. Within this framework, several competing models of cosmic evolution can be accommodated, each selecting a particular recipe as well as values for certain critical quantities (for example, the rate at which the universe is expanding, or the Hubble Constant) and the initial conditions. Recent observations have provided some directions for cooking up the cosmic recipe, but even so, deciding on which ingredients to use, and how much, is no trivial task!

Each layer of complexity added to a recipe raises the computational demands for running it. As such, the development of cosmology codes constitutes a computational grand challenge.

A Multiphysics Approach

What are the cosmological recipes and what physics should be included?

A Multiscale Approach

How can the resulting equations be solved across multiple distance scales, and how can cosmologists visualize the results?

A Multiprocessor Approach

What types of computers are best suited for the job?

Return to What Does It Take to Put the Universe in a Box?
Up to Cosmology Goes Digital

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Copyright, (c) 1995: Board of Trustees, University of Illinois

NCSA. Last modified 10/6/95.