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Crunching the Cosmos

Digital Cosmology Timeline

The history of numerical cosmology is bound up with the dramatic advances in computational technologies over the past decade. The field really began to take off in the early 1980s, when powerful processing engines such as the Cray X-MP and large memory machines like the Cray 2 became available to the scientific research community.

Cray X-MP Cray 2

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The speed and substantial memory of these machines allowed cosmologists to perform for the first time numerical simulations at a level of complexity at which significant physics could be modeled--at acceptable resolutions. But the models were still relatively simplistic. Cosmologists required still greater computing power to answer important questions such as:

The cosmoslogists have been aided by succeeding generations of machines: below are some examples currently employed at the NSF-supported supercomputing centers.

Faster Vector Multiprocessors

For example:

Massively Parallel Processors (MPP)

For example:

Scalable Multiprocessors

NCSA has evolved a "metacomputing" strategy aimed at better exploiting the high peformance and relative low cost of scalable microprocessor-based machines or arrays of machines.

For example:

Equipped with increasingly powerful computers, cosmologists are seeking to add more and more physics to their numerical recipes and to develop and run cosmology codes in cubes of space (three dimensions) rather than just slices through those cubes (two dimensions). They'd like to increase the resolution of their simulations, in order to bring out greater detail. They'd also like to perform these simulations across multiple distance scales, traversing four orders of magnitude of space, from galaxy superclusters to single galaxies.

These kinds of simulations just aren't possible without increasing computer speed and memory. They'll require teraflop crunchers, machines capable of handling 1 trillion calculations per second!

Forward to Teraflop Crunchers
Return to What Does It Take to Put the Universe in a Box?
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Copyright, (c) 1995: Board of Trustees, University of Illinois

NCSA. Last modified 11/2/95.