Durham University yesterday unveiled the biggest computer ever used in any British university. The £1.4m state-of-the-art Cosmology Machine has been designed to shed light on how the universe was created.
It will be used to perform numerical simulations of the evolution of the universe from Big Bang to the present day, armed with more than enough storage space to hold the entire contents of the British Library.
The computer will be at the heart of the Institute for Advanced Astronomical Computation, which studies how the hot gas of particles created at the birth of the universe became the stars and galaxies we see today.
The Cosmology Machine is built around Sun Microsystems' 'Throughout Engine', a cluster of 12 computers, each with four processors and a total 24Gb of Ram. It is capable of making 10 billion calculations a second.
Professor Carlos Frenk, of Durham University, said that the machine "will confront one of the grandest challenges of science: the understanding of how our universe was created".
He explained that the computer interprets data from billions of observations about the behaviour of stars, gases, galaxies and mysterious dark matter in a bid to provide answers about how and why it all evolved, perhaps shedding some light on the meaning of life itself.
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