China’s supercomputer simulated the Universe with 10 trillion digital particles

China is building a supercomputer that’s capable of 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 calculations per second and hopes a prototype will be completed this year. Despite this computing prowess, the nation is trying to do more.
The country has already stated its ambitions to ensure it is a leader in artificial intelligence by 2030. It’s now created the largest digitally generated version of the Universe, a report claims.
According to the South China Morning Post, China has used the Sunway TaihuLight, the world’s most powerful supercomputer, to simulate "the birth and early expansion of the Universe" using 10 trillion digital particles.
The work has reportedly been completed by the National Supercomputer Centre in Wuxi, and involved computer scientists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing. The supercomputer used 10 million CPU cores to create the universe – known as N-body simulation – and involved breaking the universe’s mass down into particles.
"This is just a warm-up exercise," Gao Liang, chair scientist of the computational cosmology group at the National Astronomical Observatories said. "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".
Liang says the universe that was created is five times larger than the previous simulated attempts. However, China’s simulation was only sustained for an hour, whereas a European recreation of the universe, which was the previous biggest attempt, existed for 80 hours.
In June, academics from the University of Zurich recreated a catalogue of 25 billion virtual galaxies, which were generated from two trillion digital particles. "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," academics from the University said.
It’s hoped China will be able to expand its simulation of the universe with the development of its next supercomputer.
China is currently leading the world in supercomputers. The Sunway TaihuLight has a processing speed of 93 petaflops. At its peak, the computer can perform 93,000 trillion calculations per second. In total, 167 of the most powerful 500 computers in the world reside in China.
The US is developing a number of supercomputers that would be capable of beating the Sunway TaihuLight – a 200 petaflop machine called Summit is being developed at the Oak Ridge National Lab and is due to arrive in 2018. Japan is also heavily investing in supercomputing technology and has said it will spend 19.5 billion yen (£139 million) on a 130 petaflop computer. However, China’s Zhang Ting supercomputer is planned to be an exascale computer, which is capable of at least 1 quintillion (a billion billion) calculations per second.