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Bolshoi: Largest Computer Simulation Of The Universe

The Bolshoi simulation made use of the Pleiades supercomputer at the NASA Advanced Supercomputing facility (NAS) at NASA Ames Research Center. It is the most accurate cosmological simulation of the evolution of the large-scale structure of the universe yet completed.


(The Bolshoi Simulation)
Visualization of the dark matter in 1/1000 of the gigantic Bolshoi cosmological simulation, zooming in on a region centered on the dark matter halo of a very large cluster of galaxies. Visualized by Chris Henze, NASA Ames Research Center.

The starting point for Bolshoi was the best ground- and space-based observations, including NASA’s long-running and highly successful WMAP Explorer mission that has been mapping the light of the Big Bang in the entire sky. One of the world's fastest supercomputers then calculated the evolution of a typical region of the universe a billion light years across. The Bolshoi simulation took 6 million cpu hours to run on the Pleiades supercomputer—recently ranked as seventh fastest of the world’s top 500 supercomputers—at NASA Ames Research Center.

Due to significant advances in the measurement of the cosmological parameters and in the power and speed of supercomputers and simulation codes over the past half-decade since the Millennium cosmological simulation, the Bolshoi simulation is substantially better in resolution and accuracy. The Principal Investigators of the Bolshoi project, Anatoly Klypin and Joel Primack, and their colleagues anticipate that Bolshoi will become cosmology’s new benchmark simulation for making theoretical predictions that can then be tested against data gathered by observational astronomers.

Fans of the marvelous Stanislaw Lem recall that in his 1965 novel The Cyberiad: Fables for the Cybernetic Age, he wrote about a vast computing device called the Gnostotron:

"...To put it simply, then, all we have to do is construct a digital device, a computer capable of producing an informational model of absolutely everything in existence. Properly programmed, it will provide us with an exact simulation of the Highest Possible Level of Development, which we can then question and thereby obtain the Ultimate Answers!"

As it turned out, this digital device was none other than the famed Gnostotron conceived by Chlorian Theoreticus the Proph just before his lamentable demise, a machine able literally to contain the Universe Itself within its innumerable memory banks.
(Read more about Lem's Gnostotron)

Is there anything bigger than the Bolshoi (большой means "big" in Russian) simulation? A second simulation called BigBolshoi or MultiDark, was run with the same number of particles, but in a volume 4 billion light years across, thus 64 times larger.

Amusingly, Stanislaw Lem also conceived of an even larger computer than the Gnostotron - the Gigagnostotron!

From Bolshoi Cosmological Simulations.

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