The most powerful computer in the world is running the ultimate calculation, where rebooting the program would reset the entire universe. In simulation. The National Nuclear Security Administration's ultraputer is crunching numbers bigger than you imagine - to help work out where those numbers, the computer counting them, and the universe it's in came from.
The simulation maps a vast segment of the observable universe, modeling observed behavior and allowing scientists to tinker with cosmological variables in a way usually reserved for Greek gods and Galactus. The smallest speck in the simulation is a billion suns and the custom program involves over sixty billion of them. That's quintillions of stars, all rushing around in an accelerated existence to help scientists see what is exactly "up" with "everything."
The program can only be run on the one of a kind "Roadrunner" system, which is the kind of computing you get when IBM decides to show the world how big they can be. The world's fastest computer can process over a trillion calculations per second, and even then imagining a universe strains its systems. It uses over one hundred thousand processor cores, each at least the equal of a PlayStation 3, and could probably even start Windows quickly if anyone was insane enough to install it.
By simulating just about everything, the designers can probe the universe from after the big bang to the present day, electronically evolving their observations so that they can see the effects of altering assumptions, without the inconvenient thirteen billion year wait with a real universe. The program is continually tweaked with new observations and tests, and we can only assume that the eventual aim is to model reality. And then load Space Invaders into it.
Modeling the universe
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