Scientists tasked a supercomputer with building millions of simulated universes

Theories about how the Big Bang played out and the immediate aftermath are a dime a dozen, but researchers led by a team from the University of Arizona think they might stumble upon some of the secrets of galaxy formation by asking a supercomputer to simulate millions of virtual universes and seeing which ones come closest to what we see today.

In a new research paper published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society , the team explains how they used a supercomputer system nicknamed the “Universe Machine” to watch billions of (virtual) years of galaxy formation play out before their eyes.

This approach allowed the scientists to test long-held theories about how galaxies formed in the wake of the Big Bang, and it’s already offered some eye-opening insights.

But we found the opposite: galaxies of a given size were more likely to form stars at a higher rate, contrary to the expectation.”

All of this work required some intense computing power, and the researchers enlisted the help of NASA as well as resources from German scientists, combined with their own supercomputer at the university, to make it happen.

A total of 2,000 processors ran simultaneously for three weeks to generate over 8 million virtual universes.

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