How to build a universe
(19 March 2020)
How do you build a universe?
First of all you need some of the world’s finest physicists and then you have to combine this with a hugely powerful supercomputer.
Durham hosts the COSMA supercomputer, a machine so powerful it has the equivalent memory of 40,000 home computers.
Our physicists use COSMA to create a virtual universe, charting the birth and evolution of stars and galaxies across billions of years.
Cosmologists feed the computer with ingredients from our current understanding of physics and then tinker with the recipe.
They can remove pieces of physics in their experiments and even wind back time to see what effect this has.
The result is tremendously detailed simulations showing the formation of stars and galaxies across billions of years.
Simulations are compared with observations from telescopes to further our knowledge of how galaxies are created.
Scientists from around the world are involved in this research, which ultimately aims to understand the very origins of the universe from the Big Bang to the present day.
They hope their research will help answer today’s key questions about the universe by revealing the nature of dark matter and dark energy and showing us how galaxies like our Milky Way came into being.
Find out more
- Learn more about the EAGLE project – a huge supercomputer simulation to understand how galaxies form and evolve.
- The Science and Technology Facilities Council’s DiRAC Memory Intensive Supercomputer (COSMA) is used by our astronomy, cosmology, nuclear physics and particle physics researchers.
- Durham also hosts the new Northern Intensive Computing Environment (NICE) supercomputer.