Monster Machines: The Supercomputer That Houses An Entire Universe

Over a span of two weeks in October, the Mira supercomputer will crank away nonstop, processing quadrillions of operations every second — something that few other machines are currently capable of doing. It will simultaneously track trillions of particles as they move, expand and react to each other according to the laws of physics.

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This simulation will have to use everything mankind has learned about the movement of objects. If successful, it will not only confirm what we've suspected, but will also give us a deeper understanding of how the cosmos came to be.

Mira is simulating an entire universe.

According to The Atlantic, the advent of Mira (along with the more powerful Sequoia and K supercompters) is the first time that machines have been powerful enough to run a simulation of this scale. A normal computer available today simply could not complete the calculations. And when you consider the specs of the Mira, you realise just how massive this undertaking is.

Built around IBM's BlueGene technology, Mira is powered by 768,000 cores spread across 48 blade racks. (This thing is big! Just like other supercomputers!) It has eight petaflops of processing power, and at its peak theoretical performance is able to perform 10 quadrillion floating point operations per second. Oh, and it has nearly a petabyte of RAM.

So what exactly will Mira simulate in this experiment? Essentially, as The Atlantic explains, researchers at the Argonne National Laboratory are interested in seeing exactly how stars — and entire galaxies — expand, clump together and form the filament structures. The behaviour has led scientists over the years to compare the universe to a web-like structure. The simulation will begin with the universe shortly after the big bang, then it will simulate a time lapse lasting 12 billion years to see if our theories of astrophysics hold up.

Supposing that the experiment does validate centuries of research, we can then begin to move forward. As our understanding increases and supercomputers become more powerful, we can begin to explore crazier ideas, like the possibility that there's more than one universe out there (*mind explodes*).

And the Mira supercomputer? Over its lifespan, it will be operational for five billion computing hours a year. The vast majority of its time will be spent cranking out simulations of DOE-sponsored initiatives and challenges. It will reserve a chunk of its time for projects of "immediate need" (such as the Deepwater Horizon oil crisis). It's safe to say this machine will stay busy, even when it's not deciphering the origins of our existence.


Comments

    Question is........

    Can it run Crysis at full spec?

      Obviously not.
      It doesn't even have a graphics processor.

        How about Rogue then?

        it creats 3d simulations, of course it has a graphics processor.

          It could probably run a 3d physical simulation *of* a graphics processor running Crysis at full spec

        I suggest using the ps3 super computer.

        ... It was a joke, but I guess you are too smart because you browse gizmodo, to understand what a "joke" is.

        Spot on.

      Breaking News! New supercomputer fries while trying to run a video game called Crysis on full specifications!

    Quick someone get Toady access to this. We won't have Dwarf Fortress, we'll have Dwarf Civilisation.

      Somebody find his ex-PI and get on this shiiiiiiiit.

      You win all the points forever. Once we're finished learning the nature of the universe, I petition we give Toady singularity-era super computers, for him to create a new universe. Down to the sub-molecular level. Like he's always wanted.

    It is a man made machine and will probably reveal exactly what its maker thinks happened. Quantum physics tells us that our mere observation affects outcomes so what of when we go beyond observation and actually manufacture the scenario?

      Then *we* are the creators, duh ;)

    But will it blend?

    Can it run bf3?!

    But one question remains...
    CAN IT RUN MINESWEEPER

    Finally, Valve has found a computer capable of counting to three.

    Eve online?

    Metaphysically, maybe it will become a universe. Perhaps we are in the midst of a computer run in a computer somewhere.

    Let us build two of them.

    JESUS H CHRIST.... that's all I can say.

    If the results come back negative, will some dickhead blame human error and try to "fix" it. Look at the mess man has made with God...Just saying.

    How interesting is it that something man made, coded by man, will reveal something that man doesn't already know. Oman the possibilities. How interesting will the results be? Just saying. To all those asking if it will play your game. chances are, yes. Wow how about the probability of the SUPER Computer finding life out side our spectrum of vision.

    That would be one hell of a server machine for some minecraft! :-D

    one day, this too will fit in the palm of your hand

    Does anyone else think the word 'petaflop' sounds a little bit silly, and undermines the impressive amount of power represented by the word?

      I want to know if at the end of all this the data will be a petafile..........

    WoW looks like a lot of junk........You have a super computer tony stark has a J.A.R.V.I.S....Fail

    Only Eight Petaflops of processing power and 768 000 cores? My iPhone 15 has like double that in its A33 processor. Gosh!

    can i borrow it to mine some bitcoins? 5 mins tops i promise....

    Roundworld project?

    But what is the question?

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