Cosmology@Home launched, searching for origins of universe

Posted by Rick C. Hodgin

Champaign (IL) - University researchers have created a new distributed computing environment which will join the ranks of many other such endeavors.  It will allow theoretical models of the universe to be tested against real, observed data.  The goal is to use a brute force method to find out which theory best matches up with the observed data.  It's called Cosmology@home, and is available to anyone who wants to participate.  Could your computer be the one that discovers the origin of our universe?

Many users may be familiar with popular distributed computing envornments, such as Folding@home, SETI@home, Climateprediction.net, Rosetta@home, World Community Grid, etc.  Folding@home, for example, is a system which looks at the protein folding and molecular dynamics in an attempt to solve the mysteries diseases and computational models.  In each case, the distributed software is downloaded onto your PC.  It then runs in the background, consumes a portion of your computer's computational potential, diskspace as well as Internet bandwidth.  It processes through stacks and stacks of data at breakneck speeds thanks to the many thousands of participants.  The end result is a single computing engine, distributed over many thousands of remote computers, which, for Folding@home, currently exceeds the world's fastest supercomputer.  It had a sustained computational throughput in excess of 1,000 teraflops (1 petaflop) as of May, 2007.

Cosmology@home uses a similar computational model to iterate through the many millions of theoretical formulas out there, along with all of the variables associated within them.  The hope is that some lucky computer will happen across specific models which accurately reflect observed data.  The design takes into account variations with background radiation (or noise) as well, and potential computed results will be double-checked as needed.  The researchers also hope to discover potentially better ways of determining how best to sift through the many models with their millions of variables to determine the best method of attack.

The Cosmology@home project is sponsored by the University of Illinois.  The BOINC software is available for download immediately.  It's the same software used for SETI@home, Climateprediction.net, Rosetta@home, World Community Grid and many others.