550 billion particles
“Space,” it says, “is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mindbogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to space, listen…” The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
“There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another theory which states that this has already happened.” The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
Following a link on Science Daily when looking at this 64 kcal mystery, I found an interesting annoucement about the most complete simulation of the evolution of the Universe from the Big Bang till now. The cosmology research unit in charge of the project is furthermore called DEUS (for Dark Energy Universe Simulation!), mostly located at Université Paris-Diderot, and its “goal is to investigate the imprints of dark energy on cosmic structure formation through high-performance numerical simulations”. It just announced the “simulation of the full observable universe for the concordance ΛCDM model”, which allows for the comparison of several cosmological models. (Data is freely available.) Besides the sheer scientific appeal of the project, the simulation side is also fascinating, although quite remote from Monte Carlo principles, in that the approach relies on very few repetitions of the simulation. The statistics are based on a single simulation, for a completely observed (simulated) Universe.
“If life is going to exist in a Universe of this size, then the one thing it cannot afford to have is a sense of proportion…” The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
The amounts involved in this simulation are simply mindboggling: 92 000 CPUs, 150 PBytes of data, 2 (U.S.) quadrillion flops (2 PFlop/s), the equivalent of 30 million computing hours, each particle has the size of the Milky Way, and so on… Here is a videoed description of the project (make sure to turn the sounds off if, like me, you simply and definitely hate Strauss’ music, and even if you like it, since the pictures do not move at the same pace as the music!):