Chinese Supercomputer Simulates the Beginning of the Universe

China is on the move to become the world leader in artificial intelligence by 2030. As part of those ambitious goals, the Chinese are currently building a computer capable of 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 calculations per second (1 quintillion hertz/s)!

Called the Zhang Ting supercomputer, China aims to complete its prototype this year. In addition to this, China has used its most powerful supercomputer Sunway TaihuLight to simulate the universe’s 10 trillion digital particles with the help of its 10 million CPU cores. The milestone was achieved by scientists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing. They used the National Supercomputer Center in Wuxi to arrive at their conclusions.

Despite having achieved this much computing prowess, China is aiming to go much higher than what it is currently capable of. Its current supercomputer can simulate the digitally generated version of the universe.

Gao Liang, the chief scientist behind the computational cosmology group at the National Astronomical Observatories, had this to say about their feat:

“This is just a warm-up exercise. We just got to the point of tens of millions of years after the Big Bang. It was still a very young stage for the universe. Most galaxies were not even born.”

The Previous Attempts

In order to create a simulation of the universe’s birth, supercomputers had to break all mass into pieces.

However, this exercise only lasted for an hour with the Zhang Ting, while the previous biggest attempt to simulate universe lasted for 80 hours. This speaks about the strength of the current supercomputer, since this attempt is five times larger than the previous best.

The previous attempt was made by the University of Zurich, where 25 billion virtual galaxies were simulated using two trillion digital particles. The academics from the university said,

“The challenge of this simulation was to model galaxies as small as one tenth of the Milky Way, in a volume as large as our entire observable Universe”.

China is the global leader in supercomputers, possessing 167 out of the 500 most powerful supercomputers in the world. With a processing speed of 93 petaflops (93,000 trillion calculations per second), Sunway TaihuLight is the world’s most powerful supercomputer at the moment.

The Future of Super Computers

Both Japan and the United States are currently investing huge amounts in supercomputers. The US is developing Summit – a 200 petaflop machine – at Oak Ridge National Lab which would be able to beat the current fastest supercomputer and is expected to arrive in 2018. Japan is aiming to spend 19.5 billion yen (£139 million) on a 130 petaflop machine.

However, once complete, China’s exascale super-computer Zhang Ting will be able to perform 1 quintillion calculations per second, easily beating all its rivals.

Feature Writer

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