Cosmology Machine creates the universe
PPARC NEWS RELEASE
Posted: August 2, 2001
Trade and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt launched the "time machine" on its first simulation programme this week when she switched on the £1.4 million state-of-the-art installation at the University's Physics Department.
The Cosmology Machine takes data from billions of observations about the behaviour of stars, gases and the mysterious dark matter throughout the universe and then calculates, at ultra high speeds, how galaxies and solar systems evolved. By testing different theories of cosmic evolution it can simulate virtual universes to test which ideas come closest to explaining the real universe.
The gigantic new facility - manufactured by Sun Microsystems and supplied by Esteem Systems plc - has been installed at Durham with the help of £652,00 from the Joint Research Equipment Initiative (JREI). The JREI was set up by the DTI's Office of Science and Technology, the Higher Education Funding Council for England (Hefce) and the research councils - in this case, the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council (PPARC) - to provide strategic investment in key scientific infrastructure for research of international quality.
The funding forms part of £18 million worth of special strategic investment in Durham science by DTI and the research and funding councils over the past two years.
The supercomputer is operated by the Institute for Computational Cosmology (ICC), part of the Ogden Centre for Fundamental Physics now being developed at Durham. Its breathtaking capacity for calculations will set new standards in science that could also help other areas of research. The supercomputer:
Vice-Chancellor of the University of Durham, Sir Kenneth Calman said: "This is a fascinating and important branch of physics. I am delighted that my colleagues in Durham have established the expertise and quality to take a lead in advancing the frontiers of knowledge even further."
Chief Executive of PPARC, Professor Ian Halliday says, "This is a stunning resource for astronomical research in Britain. It will enable consortium scientists in UK, Germany, Canada and the USA to perform cosmological calculations of unprecedented size and detail. We are poised to confront one of the grandest challenges of science: the understanding of how our universe was created and how it evolved to its present state."
The Durham Institute is a leading international centre for research into the origin and evolution of the universe and is the UK base of the "Virgo consortium for cosmological simulations", a collaboration of about 30 researchers in the UK, Germany, Canada and the USA.
Research ranges from the formation of the first objects in the universe, to the physics of the great clusters of galaxies. Long-term goals are to understand the formation of structures in the universe, to establish the identity and properties of the dark matter that dominates the dynamics of the universe, to determine the parameters of our world model, and to relate the Big Bang theory to astronomical observations.