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Numerical Relativity Timeline
Just testing 3D codes on one- and two-dimensional models taxes the capabilities of even the most sophisticated massively parallel computers.
Larry Smarr, NCSA/Univ. of Illinois, on-camera
QuickTime Movie (1.9 MB); Sound File (1.1 MB); Text
Advancing to the "Holy Grail" -- solving Einstein's equations in three dimensions for two spinning black holes rotating around each other and finally colliding -- will require yet more powerful computers, hundreds or thousands times faster than current state-of-the-art computers, and codes that can exploit this extra processing power.
In fact, the sheer processing "horsepower" required to solve the problem will likely not reside in one super-powerful computer, but in a network of computers, possibly distributed among several locations. Solving the problem will require much more sophisticated codes, driven not only by the complexity of the physics but by the demands of new computer architectures as well.
The race to refine 3D relativity codes is on: teraflop computers are scheduled to come online in just three years. And, in the spirit of healthy competition that exists between theorists and experimentalists, the numerical relativists want to accurately simulate gravitational waves before the experimentalists actually detect them, perhaps at the beginning of the millenium. It's more than just a matter of professional pride; accurate simulations will make the experimental data much easier to interpret.
Because building the codes to solve Einstein's equations is a Grand Challenge problem, it requires the cooperation and expertise of numerical relativists, physicists, computer scientists, and specialists in algorithm development, data management and visualization. Their work will be made possible through a high-speed network of high-performance computers throughout the country. Along the way, their efforts will doubtless affect the design of future computers, algorithm development, visualization and new human-computer interface technologies, including virtual reality. Their ultimate goal is to be able to solve Einstein's equations in their full generalities, with no restrictions of time or space.
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