Mathematics + Supercomputers = Big Bang Explained

Jul 08, 2010 by Margaret Allen
Mathematics + Supercomputers = Big Bang Explained
Daniel R. Reynolds

(PhysOrg.com) -- Mathematician Daniel Reynolds is using supercomputers to unravel the mysteries of the Big Bang.

The Big Bang that created the universe more than 13 billion years ago was a huge hodgepodge of chemical reactions. Hydrogen, helium and other gases ultimately began clumping together to form stars, planets and galaxies.

How exactly did that happen?

Scientists now have a better chance of finding answers to that mystery because of the massive of supercomputers - today’s fastest, most powerful computers, says Daniel R. Reynolds, assistant professor of mathematics in Dedman College.

Developing complex models for supercomputers to simulate the physical processes of the Big Bang is a new frontier for mathematicians and
astrophysicists. Reynolds, among those pioneers, says scientists will know they have solved a part of the Big Bang puzzle when they test a model and it results in a simulated universe similar to the one in which we live today.

“Scientists have been able to approximate a great many physical processes in idealized situations. But the true frontier nowadays is to let go of these simplifying approximations and treat the problems as they really are, by modeling all of the geometric structure and the in-homogeneity,” he says.

Now in his second year at SMU, Reynolds teaches applied and computational mathematics. He first made the connection between mathematics and its utility to help him better understand the world in high school calculus and classes. Eventually Reynolds earned a doctoral degree in computational and applied mathematics at Rice University. During postdoctoral work at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and the University of California, San Diego, he began working with astrophysicists to develop mathematical models to understand the Big Bang.

In collaboration with his UC San Diego colleagues, Reynolds has developed a new that simulates a slice in time soon after the : the so-called “dark ages,” 380,000 years to 400 million years after the universe was born, when gravity pulled gases into the first stars.

With funding from the National Science Foundation, the team has tested its model successfully on two of the largest existing NSF supercomputers: “Ranger” at the University of Texas at Austin and “Kraken” at the University of Tennessee.

A key characteristic differentiates the team’s model from others: “By forcing the computational methods to tightly bind different physical processes together, our new model allows us to generate simulations that are highly accurate, numerically stable and computationally scalable to the largest supercomputers available,” Reynolds says.

The team presented its research at a Texas Cosmology Network Meeting at the University of Texas. Reynolds’ mathematical research also was published in the Journal of Computational Physics.

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User comments : 18

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Jigga
1.4 / 5 (10) Jul 08, 2010
Cosmological flux-limited diffusion model, compressible hydrodynamics, radiating shock waves - well, they're modeling universe like aether fluid... Anyway, Big Bang is excellent salary generator - this is what these theories really are. They cannot compute anything, what this model doesn't consider at its very beginning.
Sonhouse
3.5 / 5 (8) Jul 08, 2010
Cosmological flux-limited diffusion model, compressible hydrodynamics, radiating shock waves - well, they're modeling universe like aether fluid... Anyway, Big Bang is excellent salary generator - this is what these theories really are. They cannot compute anything, what this model doesn't consider at its very beginning.


But of course you would do it all much better.....
Doug_Huffman
not rated yet Jul 08, 2010
The Big Bang that created the universe more than 13 billion years ago was a huge hodgepodge of chemical reactions. Hydrogen, helium and other gases ultimately began clumping together...
Better than chemical reactions during the Big Bang, unless you would argue that it continues. If there must be an end to the bang then condensation of elements is a good one.
Jigga
1.6 / 5 (7) Jul 08, 2010
but of course you would do it all much better
I'm not engaged in spodomancy.
dirk_bruere
4 / 5 (2) Jul 08, 2010
Simulations are useful, but... GIGO
ArcainOne
3 / 5 (1) Jul 09, 2010
Thats interesting, they really aren't explaining how the big bang happened they are just explaining what happened immediately after. Like explaining the effects of an atom bomb during its explosion and how the dust settles but leaving out how the bomb was dropped or assembled. Some what disappointing but some times you get very interesting 'gems' of information from such studies that can lead to bigger better things.
Hesperos
5 / 5 (2) Jul 10, 2010
I'm nostalgic for the good old days when you discovered something and THEN published...
Jigga
1.8 / 5 (5) Jul 10, 2010
It worked so because scientists like Faraday or Tesla payed research from their own money. At the moment, when you can get the money just for presenting of publications, such motivation naturally vaporized. Contemporary science is too lucrative and safe job for not to being spoofed by various individuals, who can mask their (non)activity as a scientific research.
antialias_physorg
3 / 5 (2) Jul 11, 2010
Thats interesting, they really aren't explaining how the big bang happened
Because asking "how" of a state which had no prior state makes no sense.
kevinrtrs
1.8 / 5 (6) Jul 12, 2010
Because asking "how" of a state which had no prior state makes no sense.

Which means they have to come up with some starting conditions. And since they don't know how things came about, they have to ASSUME something.

It would be good if they actually published those assumptions and the implications of what would happen if they were different or not so at all.

Who is to say that the big bang theory is correct in the first place?

If the physical world did not come about from a big bang as currently understood then their simulation should eventually show big bang to be incorrect.

I hope that if that is the case they'll be courageous enough to publish that. And more importantly that publications will be willing to accept such a notion.

Skeptic_Heretic
2.5 / 5 (2) Jul 12, 2010
Lot sof people here not understanding what is being modeled.

This article is stating that due to the increase in computational power we're now able to test M Theory, Brane Theory, Inflationary theory, etc.

It makes no statement on the veracity or competition between these theories.

And yes, we do have theories that speak to the "before" of the Big Bang. We're attempting to test them now at large particle colliders and with deep space telescopy right now. You gents need to do some more current reading.
Jigga
2.3 / 5 (3) Jul 12, 2010
Because asking "how" of a state which had no prior state makes no sense.

Why it couldn't have? Because of your belief in God or Lemaitre or something else?
ArcainOne
not rated yet Jul 12, 2010
Lot sof people here not understanding what is being modeled.

This article is stating that due to the increase in computational power we're now able to test M Theory, Brane Theory, Inflationary theory, etc.

It makes no statement on the veracity or competition between these theories.

And yes, we do have theories that speak to the "before" of the Big Bang. We're attempting to test them now at large particle colliders and with deep space telescopy right now. You gents need to do some more current reading.


Well that is kind of what I was referring to, but I didn't see in the article when they actually mentioned "pre-big-bang" simulations.

"Reynolds has developed a new mathematical model that simulates a slice in time soon after the Big Bang: the so-called “dark ages,” 380,000 years to 400 million years after the universe was born, when gravity pulled gases into the first stars."
Jigga
1 / 5 (5) Jul 12, 2010
Actually with using a different model we would needn't Big Bang at all, which can serve as an evidence, simulation doesn't prove anything by itself.

http://www.physor...631.html

If physicists would use the above theory, they would spend millions of dollars in supercomputer simulation, which would refute Big Bang instead.

This example just illustrates, what such simulations are good for in general - for enabling of relatively safe life of physicists involved.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (3) Jul 12, 2010
Why it couldn't have? Because of your belief in God or Lemaitre or something else?

No. Space and time has no real meaning beyond a certain size (Planck length / Planck time). IF we accept a big bang singularity then our understanding of what time and space is breaks down (that is still an unsoved 'if' though)

But if we accept the big bang singularity then questions about times 'before' the big bang become nonsensical.

We'll see if other theories can beat the observable evidence of the BB.
ArcainOne
3.5 / 5 (2) Jul 12, 2010
No... IF we accept a big bang singularity then our understanding of what time and space is breaks down (that is still an unsoved 'if' though)

But if we accept the big bang singularity then questions about times 'before' the big bang become nonsensical...


While quite true, it does not mean we do not have ideas or models about the universe pre-big-bang. In fact there are quite a few supported by quantum theory and proposed by string theory (M-theory, yes I still refer to it in the old tongue... habbit). Which is why I was some what disappointed by the article. I thought that, for an instance, someone had come up with a model to simulate the conditions that brought about the big bang, yes crazy I know but I have been pleasantly surprised before. After all we derived and tested an experiment to determine if our universe was "flat" or "curved". (disclaimer: not saying its 100% correct but it still stands we did it...)
Branden520
not rated yet Jul 16, 2010
I'm sorry to be ignorant to how these simulations are developed. But, I was wondering if they are starting their data simulation from what is theorized about how it started or if they are taking what is in existence today and reversing the affects of time on our known universe?

Jigga
1 / 5 (1) Jul 16, 2010
Space and time has no real meaning beyond a certain size
There is a number of periodic models of Universe evolution as many as the pre-Big Bang scenarios - so you can be sure, space and time has indeed meaning beyond these limits for many physicists.

http://en.wikiped...ic_model

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