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Video: How Argonne Simulated the Evolution of the Universe

Katrin Heitmann, Physicist/Computational Scientist, Argonne

Katrin Heitmann, Physicist/Computational Scientist, Argonne

In this Chigago Tonight video, Katrin Heitmann from Argonne National Lab describes one of the most complex simulations of the evolution of the universe ever created.

“First of all, what we want to understand in cosmology is the evolution of the universe—how it got to where it is today—as well as the make-up of the universe—what’s in it. In order to do that we are running very large surveys that basically map out the distribution of galaxies across the sky in a 3-D map. We have a certain understanding about the universe. We have understanding about the initial conditions and we have an understanding of how it evolved and an understanding of its make-up. What we want to do now with these simulations is exactly create this universe in our lab. So we build this model and we put it on a computer and evolve it forward, and now we have created a universe that we can look at and compare it to the real data.”

An astonishing 99.6 percent of our Universe is dark. Observations indicated that the Universe consists of 70 percent of a mysterious dark energy and 25 percent of a yet unidentified dark matter component, and only 0.4 percent of the remaining ordinary matter is visible. Understanding the physics of this dark sector is the foremost challenge in cosmology today. Sophistocated simulations of the Universe play a crucial task in this endeavor.

This video shows an intermediate stage in a large simulation of the distribution of matter in the Universe, the so-called cosmic web, accounting for the influence of dark energy. The simulation is evolving 1.1 trillion particles using HACC, a new computational framework developed to overcome the challenge posed by future supercomputing architectures. This simulation shows a snapshot of the Universe at a redshift of Z=0.7, where the Universe was 7.4 billion years old. The simulation is currently running on 32 racks of Mira, the Blue Gene/Q supercomputer at Argonne. The visualization was performed on Argonne’s Tukey cluster.

If you are interested in learning more on this topic, Dr. Stephen Perrenod has published a book entitled Dark Matter, Dark Energy, Dark Gravity:Enabling a Universe that Supports Intelligent Life. Steve is an astrophysicist and a long-time member of the HPC community, so when he asked me to write the Foreword for the book, I jumped at the chance.

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