Tuesday, November 20, 2007

supercomputers zoom in on universe

THE American Museum of Natural History in New York is known for its impressive collection of dinosaur bones and a high-tech planetarium.

The fastest of the museum's two computer clusters can carry out more than 5 trillion mathematical operations per second. Standing nearby, listening to the low hum of fans cooling the racks of processors, I can practically feel it recreating the astrophysical processes that shaped our solar system.

Harnessing supercomputers to simulate astrophysical events is not new. Two years ago, the largest, most detailed simulation of the evolution of the universe was performed at the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics in Garching, Germany.