back to article ENTIRE UNIVERSE created in supercomputer. Not THIS universe (probably)

Researchers at MIT and Harvard have created a a giant virtual universe – 350 million light-years squared – which can be used to simulate the real universe's development from 12 million years after the Big Bang to the present day, or around 13 billion years' worth of expansion. Dubbed Illustris, the pocket universe uses over 12 …

COMMENTS

This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. stucs201

    You are here.

    Presumably it extrapolates the whole thing from a small piece of fairy cake?

    1. dan1980

      Re: You are here.

      Either way, it's good work - Pan-Galactic Gargle Blasters all 'round.

    2. Mighty9

      Re: You are here.

      No it was a giant man who said hocus pocus, and everything appeared. A giant manface in the sky created the entire universe. Ha Ha Ha

      1. TheUglyAmerican

        Re: You are here.

        So wrong. It was a quantum fluctuation in non-space and non-time (space and time don't come about until after the fluctuation, which makes no sense because there is no before the after) which then hyper expanded, driven by an energy we cannot identify so we just call it "dark". Ha ha ha.

        1. cifey

          Re: You are here.

          One simpler idea, the 'universe' is infinitely large and infinitely old.

          There are properties and particles that just exist, one is the strong attraction of particles,

          the other is the general vacuum expansion of infinite empty space.

          Eventually enough dust congregates together and chain reacts to makes a huge explosion.

          It happens many times over infinity, what we see as the big bang is just one such occurrence.

          The universe was already here we are part of a big bang, there are other big bangs further out there.

  2. CACondor

    Shouldn't a simulation of the universe be measured in cubic light years?

    1. Elmer Phud

      "Shouldn't a simulation of the universe be measured in cubic light years?"

      Only from our point of view - other lifeforms may have thier own measurements (dependng on the number of handily available dimensions) - and anyway, what the hell are you doing trying to introduce cubic light years to the Reg?

      We need a better unit than that.

      I mean, what's a cubic light year in comparison to the space in a politicians head?

      One is far emptier than the other but contains a lot more bullshit than a cubic light year.

      1. BenR

        I think his point was that a universe of 350 million light-years squared implies it's a 2-dimensional, planar universe.

      2. Primus Secundus Tertius Silver badge

        You complain about politicians but the alternative is men with guns.

        Germany voted against traditional politicians in 1933. It was a long time before they voted again, especially in the eastern parts.

        1. NumptyScrub

          Godwin already? ^^;

          Armed invasion of foreign nations, to remove unsympathetic governments and install a different government more amenable to your cause... I could be talking about Poland and France, or perhaps Iraq and Afghanistan. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose, n'est ce pas?

  3. Steven Roper

    Good stuff

    Now all we need is for David Braben to include this model in the next version of Elite: Frontier (with procedurally generated surfaces for known extrasolar planets, natch, and of course Lave has to be in there somewhere...)

    1. SpeakerToAliens
      Pint

      Elite: Dangerous (by David Braben) coming to a PC near you soon!

      www.kickstarter.com/projects/1461411552/elite-dangerous

      1. KirstarK

        Re: Elite: Dangerous (by David Braben) coming to a PC near you soon!

        I know lets make it an mmo.

        hmmm.. maybe call it something like eve online :)

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Elite: Dangerous (by David Braben) coming to a PC near you soon!

          "I know lets make it an mmo."

          My God... it's full of stars....

    2. DJO Silver badge

      Re: Good stuff

      Somehow I doubt if this will fit on a single floppy disc like the original Elite did, I suspect a game that needs a truck full of discs for the universe might not be hugely popular. Otherwise a great idea.

      1. Vociferous

        Re: Good stuff

        > I doubt if this will fit on a single floppy disc

        You may be right. This is what docking with a space station used to look like, and this is what it looks like now.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Good stuff

          "You may be right. This is what docking with a space station used to look like, and this is what it looks like now."

          Pretty... I have a death wish, and an uncontrollable urge to pop off a missile or two and provoke the Vipers.

    3. M Gale

      Re: Good stuff

      Maybe if he lets you sell it when you're bored with it.

      Otherwise, no thanks. My copy, my license, my property. To give away or throw in a bonfire if I so choose. Not yours, Mr "I hate Second Hand Games" Braben.

  4. Mussie (Ed)

    Strange

    Watching that made me feel just how much empty there is out there....

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Strange

      The universe is funny that way. It's amazing how much empty is between nuclei and the electron shell as well, yet somehow it all seems solid.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    That's pretty badass.

    And the best part is that in a few years, we'll be able to run it in real time as live wallpaper on our phones...

    1. John Savard Silver badge

      Well, Moore's Law is running out of steam lately, so we may have to wait a little longer. Still, I hope we do make progress, so I can upload myself.

      1. Grikath

        no need for Moore

        You can always run a set of a couple of iterations in a loop. Will be a bit before you're tired of that.. ;)

    2. Vociferous

      > we'll be able to run it in real time as live wallpaper on our phones

      That's not the direction technology is going any more. You'll be able to STREAM it on your phone.

  6. DougS Silver badge

    We could be in a simulation

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nick_Bostrom#Simulation_argument

    1. Bill Fresher

      Re: We could be in a simulation

      You, and everything else, might be simulated, but I know my thoughts are not.

      1. dan1980

        Re: We could be in a simulation

        @BIll

        If consciousness is an emergent property, arising once a particular threshold of complexity has been passed then how do you know that your consciousness is not an emergent property of a suitably advanced simulation?

        One might argue that simulating a universe in enough detail to give birth to such a phenomenon would be impossible but that would be discounting the possibility that the simulation is in fact a crude representation of a significantly more complex 'real' universe.

        I would think it would be impossible to prove that 'real' universe wasn't an infinitely older and more complex beast in which a civilisation had advanced far enough to have harnessed computing power on the order of magnitude sufficient to run a simulation of a universe to the detail we observe.

        Remember, too, that there are still bits of this universe that elude our grasp, such as singularities. Who's to say that our inability to predict behaviour at a singularity isn't the product of some 'fudge factor' employed in a simulation? Or the uncertainty principle.

        Or dark matter - perhaps our inability to account for some observations is due to a shortcut taken?

        All very wishy-washy but the point is that the only way to maintain your position that your experience of consciousness is proof that you don't live in a simulation is to hold that consciousness is something outside of any natural law - something that can't be created except through a supernatural agency, whatever that may be.

        Which is, of course, fine if that's the position you take!

        1. Unicornpiss Silver badge
          Alien

          @Dan1980

          We don't know. Let's just hope that some mega being has our simulation plugged into a decent UPS or whatever the meta equivalent is.

          Read Greg Egan's "Permutation City"

        2. Annihilator
          Boffin

          Re: We could be in a simulation

          "If consciousness is an emergent property, arising once a particular threshold of complexity has been passed then how do you know that your consciousness is not an emergent property of a suitably advanced simulation?"

          It doesn't really matter. Descartes pondered this question as to whether he existed and concluded that it didn't matter, by just questioning it, either he himself or a different being that he was part of was doing the thinking. Cogito ergo sum, as he eloquently concludes :-)

          1. dan1980

            Re: We could be in a simulation

            @Annihilator

            "It doesn't really matter."

            Absolutely. Well, not to me at least - I couldn't care a fig if I am 'real' or a simulation. Given that we can only perceive the world through the filter of ourselves, the question is largely nonsensical.

            Which is what I take out of that most famous of assertions.

            The poster I was responding to seemed (to me) to be taking it to mean "I think therefore I am real", whereas I read it: "I think therefore I am an entity capable of thinking."

            In other words, all we can say is that we are aware of our own thought process, but beyond that, we cannot be sure. We cannot even say where these thoughts originate from, only that we are aware of having them.

            At the moment, I am acutely aware of having finished my beer.

            1. Scott Sinnock

              Re: We could be in a simulation

              "It doesn't really matter", well not really, but it's fun to think (cogito) about. Does anyone "really" care what the end of the universe will be in a gagillion years from now, or how it began a gagillion years ago. Not existentially (the "sum" part of Descartes famous quote). I don't think I remember the big bang, nor do I suspect I will live to see the IR heat decay long after the stars wink out. I suspect I will die long before then.

        3. manning120

          Re: We could be in a simulation

          I think you're confusing simulation with duplication. If there could be a clone of the universe, then surely consciousness would be possible in the clone. But the universe can't be cloned or duplicated, can it? Maybe consciousness could be simulated, but then it wouldn't be "real," would it?

          1. Scott Sinnock

            Re: Manning120 - We could be in a simulation

            If consciousness is simulated, then it is conscious, so would be as "real" as our consciousness, which many have said is not real.

        4. southen bastard

          Re: We could be in a simulation

          I think you have missed a point.

          If we can run the sim in enough detail, at some point we will create god/gods and at that point all will become self furfulling with (insert god name of your choice) then taking over and filling in the details you missed..

          Of cource (insert god name of your choice) has a far better computer than us becouse ( insert god name of your choice) if he/her realy cared microsoft would never come about, and apple would have developed in to a truly (we can hope) relieable and increadable op sys, my be Siri would be a new god instead of google and could answer all our questions in a sexy voice with a nude hologram doing all we request,.....

          Bring on the ault, sim future i want to live there

      2. TheOtherHobbes

        Re: We could be in a simulation

        >You, and everything else, might be simulated, but I know my thoughts are not.

        That's what they want you to think.

      3. Primus Secundus Tertius Silver badge

        Re: We could be in a simulation

        "Brain: that with which we think we think"

        Ambrose Bierce, Devil's Dictionary.

    2. Mike 125

      Re: We could be in a simulation

      @DougS

      We could be. But that theory adds no new explanations for what we observe. Moreover, it would require additional explanations, if true. Hence, we choose to drop it. Please just drop it. It's old and boring. Like me.

      Great picture - good work.

      1. Andy Davies

        Re: We could be in a simulation

        A simulation of what?

        1. dan1980

          Re: We could be in a simulation

          @Andy Davies

          "A simulation of what?"

          The way I am positioned right now; a simulation of a world without light or happiness of rest or, most importantly, beer.

          Perhaps (present activites not withstanding) it is merely a simulation of Dan working too hard. That would explain it actually - I certainly would prefer not to be working.

    3. D@v3
      Meh

      Re: We could be in a simulation

      why would anyone want to simulate such tedium?

    4. Caaaptaaaain kick arse

      Re: We could be in a simulation

      just think, they could be saying to each other "yes that is a fair representation of what we see in reality" just before they switch us off.

      Reminds me of an old Scifi story where scientists developed a sim universe and the occupants promptly broke out, anyone remember the story?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: We could be in a simulation

        "anyone remember the story?"

        The 13th floor? - or whatever it's based on...

      2. Vociferous

        Re: We could be in a simulation

        > Scifi story where scientists developed a sim universe and the occupants promptly broke out

        'The Cyberiad' by Stanislaw Lem. Also a great many episodes of Star Trek.

    5. Primus Secundus Tertius Silver badge

      Re: We could be in a simulation

      Universe or multiverse?

      Sounds like it was designed by computer people, with the traditional uni/multi confusion.

  7. Scott Sinnock

    Wonderful

    An image: the dark matter looks like a nerve network. A question: Could the universe rotate like shown in the film?

    1. Vociferous

      Re: Wonderful

      Rotate relative to what?

      1. Elmer Phud
        Boffin

        Re: Wonderful

        "Rotate relative to what?"

        Rotate relatives to different homes each Xmas to avoid getting the drunken uncle once a year.

      2. Scott Sinnock

        Re: Wonderful

        The observer, of course.

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

        2. dan1980

          Re: Wonderful

          "The observer, of course."

          Well, that's the thing, RELATIVE to an observer, the universe is rotating!

          You can see it every night as the stars track across the sky. Of course, it's the earth's rotation that is giving this effect but there's not really a difference between the one and the other; the maths works fine either way, just as it does with, say, red-shift - it's not important whether you are moving away from the star, the star is moving away from you or you are both moving away from each other.

          Or maybe I am wrong but it was my understanding that that's the very point of one thing being measured realtive to another.

          1. dan1980

            Re: Wonderful

            Regarding the maths, in practice, of course, you formulate it in whatever way works best for the situation at hand.

            In reality, due to the conservation of angular momentum, everything is rotating. Planets around stars, stars around galactic centers, galaxies rotating around each other inside their clusters and, those clusters rotating inside their super-clusters.

            However, as gravity has limitless range*, everything is pulling on everything else and so rotation is probably not what's happening on the truly large scale. I mean, galaxies in our local cluster are rotating but we will, at some point, collide with Andromeda to form some kick-ass super-galaxy.

            This is exactly the process that formed those two galaxies in the first place and is responsible for the filament-like structure seen at the kind of scale where individual galaxies are just single points of light.

            In a non-expanding, finite universe, eventually all the matter in the universe would coalesce into one giant, spinning mass.

            In an expanding, infinite universe, however, every point in space is, in a very real sense, the centre of its own universe, with the perimeter bounded by the distance light has been able to travel since the big bang. In that sense (and not taking it to the extemes of anything so insignificant as individual people) the Earth is the centre of the universe.

            The problem there, however, is that the other objects we are observing are the centres of their own universes and thus subject to gravitational forces from objects outside of our universe.

            The short version is that, well, I have no idea what the universe is doing. To be honest, right now I only acknowledge anything outside this room because I have to go there occasionally to get beer.

            * - Excluding, for the sake of simplicity, the expansion of the universe.

            1. Scott Sinnock

              Re: Wonderful

              Thanks, dan, I cracked up when I read your short version. Me too or neither as the case may be. I hope the beer in my fridge really exists outside my sensible universe. I am pretty sure it does. But you know there are some crazy philosophers that say I can't really be sure. I usually doubt them.

          2. Scott Sinnock

            Re: Wonderful

            A self-centered set of spherical coordinates with azimuth and declination (Stereo diagrams, star charts, etc.) are just as mathematically rigorous descriptions of the universe as any based on Cartesian coordinates. Special relativity favors no observer in any coordinate system and translation is no problem. In such a coordinate system, the universe does indeed rotate about us. This has teleological implications too. I suggest Einstein and quantum mechanics (seeing, sensing is "manifesting", Schrodinger's cat) put us back in the center of the universe, rather than being an insignificant mote in the vastness of Cartesian/Copernican space. It ALL happens here .... now .... where we, the observers manifest sensible reality. Another observer may be in some other place, but I am here, and can't help but be here, I have no alternative.

        3. Vociferous

          Re: Wonderful

          >The observer, of course.

          I wrote a joke answer first, but thought better of it. This is AFAIK, and according to my understanding:

          If the observer is IN the universe, then I suppose theoretically the observer could be the reference point and one could make everything else in the universe rotate around him, but changing the trajectories of every object in the universe would be difficult. Like Dan1980 points out, in a sense the universe IS rotating around you, due to the Earth's rotation.

          An observer OUTSIDE our universe can't observe our universe rotating: there's an event horizon separating him from our universe, he can't see us any more than we can see the naked singularity in a black hole.

          Now, as far as I know it is possible that the universe might be rotating around an axis. It's not an unreasonable thought, most things in the universe rotate around an axis, so why not the universe? I don't know how one'd go about showing this, though.

    2. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: Wonderful

      No. Probably.

    3. Primus Secundus Tertius Silver badge

      Re: Wonderful

      The universe could rotate, but it does not.

      Gödel not only made his mark in mathematical logic, but subsequently solved equations of general relativity for a rotating universe. He made predictions, which were tested.

      Conclusion: the universe is not rotating. That must mean that it did not gain angular momentum during its inflationary phase.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Wonderful

      "the dark matter looks like a nerve network."

      or a brain cell...

      http://www.nytimes.com/imagepages/2006/08/14/science/

      20060815_SCILL_GRAPHIC.html

      1. Scott Sinnock

        Re: Wonderful

        Thank you, I think than may have been the picture I was thinking of, or a similar one. Maybe it's all one big brain or thought?

  8. BG

    Looks like my neighbor's Christmas lights. Where's the big bang? 100,000 lines of code and there's no bang - I wanna see the bang, dammit!!

  9. Vociferous

    sed -e s/squared/cubed/ Article > Article.new

    Even says so in the video.

  10. John Gamble

    Getting the Simulation Right

    "Very small galaxies in our simulation are older than are observed in the real universe. Stars in these small galaxies formed around six billion years ago in the simulation, whereas in the real universe they only formed about three billion years ago,"

    That pesky dark matter -- it gets into everything.

    (I would have added a joke alert icon, but I'm not certain that it's necessarily a joke.)

  11. T. F. M. Reader Silver badge

    Were mice involved?

    Could not find an answer to the question on the project page.

    The page was useful though: it clearly uses 3D volume (in Mpc^3), it is not clear to me where El Reg's number of "light-years squared" comes from. Another dubious piece of arithmetic concerns 3 months on 8K cores (El Reg says"processors", but I checked on the project page - 8192 cores) being equivalent to 2000 years on a "standard PC". That would imply that a standard PC has a single core - it was right at some redshift, but not at the time of writing.

    Now, where did I put my towel?

  12. ecofeco Silver badge
    Coat

    Which brings up the old question...

    How do we know we aren't just a simulation on some one else's computer?

    Mines the one with the cheap paperback and lurid cover in the pocket. --------------->

    1. Scott Sinnock

      Re: Which brings up the old question...

      The Matrix syndrome.

  13. M Gale

    Computer time

    Would this kind of thing be feasible for a BOINC project? True, the inter-node latency is going to be terrible, but terrible is better than "none until the nice guys with the warehouse-size computers let us play with their toys".

  14. manning120

    350 million light years?

    “Researchers at MIT and Harvard have created a giant virtual universe – 350 million light-years squared – which can be used to simulate the real universe's development from 12 million years after the Big Bang to the present day, or around 13 billion years' worth of expansion.”

    Does “350 million light-years squared” refer to the size of the virtual universe? How could we say the “real universe” has a size? We can only imagine distances between things in the universe, not the size the universe itself. It must have been unbounded from beginning of time – that being when all that was necessary to form the universe came into existence. If a virtual universe had boundaries, it wouldn’t reflect the “real universe,” which has none, and never had any. Anything with boundaries exists in the universe; the universe itself is boundless.

  15. peter_dtm

    Wow - Real Science

    let's see :

    Model observed to differ from reality; conclusion model is wrong; model needs to be fixed.

    This; as we all should know; is the correct way of doing science; unlike some branches of science where the models are all ways right and it is reality that's wrong; so the data will have to be 'adjusted' to make it match the models.

    This novel approach that reality is right would never get any funding in East Anglia or the Pen State ! Next thing you know is that they will have the nerve to make their models and data freely accesible as well; heavans forbid !

    Such a warming concept that models may be wrong; not reality !

  16. 1McLong

    Taken to Logical Conclusions...

    IF Quantum Computing becomes a viable possibility, then some truly amazing things will become possible when taken to their logical conclusions, like the ability to run computer simulated universes indistinguishable from our own “real” universe, complete with simulated minds. Even some books that discuss the implications of quantum computing on computer simulated universes (i.e., “The Evolution of Simulated Universes”). I think we are on the verge of a technological revolution.

  17. Brian Allan 1

    Gee, humans are getting to the point of simulating the simulation we live in... wonderful!

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Interesting

    Its turtles all the way down.

    In this case, quantum ones.

This topic is closed for new posts.

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019