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A Toolbox to Simulate the Big Bang and Beyond

By Rob Mitchum // September 24, 2013

To determine how the universe as we know it formed, scientists have come up with an ambitious strategy: just do it all over again. In an article at, Rob Roser, the head of the Fermilab Scientific Computing Division, describes a partnership with Argonne National Laboratory and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to create a cosmological simulation toolbox that helps scientists run these massive supercomputing experiments. Leading the project are CI senior fellow Salman Habib and fellow Ravi Madduri.

The universe is a vast and mysterious place, but thanks to some powerful new technology we are beginning to understand it better. Scientists around the world are starting to use supercomputers to simulate how the Big Bang generated the seeds that led to the formation of galaxies such as our own Milky Way. A new project sponsored by three of the Energy Department’s National Labs will allow scientists to study this vastness in greater detail with a new cosmological simulation analysis toolbox.


Modeling the universe with a computer is very difficult. Scientists use supercomputers to simulate the evolution of our galaxies, and the output of those simulations is typically very large. By anyone’s standards, this is “big data,” as each of these data sets can require hundreds of terabytes of storage space. Efficient storage and sharing of these huge data sets among scientists is paramount. Many different scientific analyses and processing sequences are carried out with each data set, making it impractical to rerun the simulations for each new study.


This past year, Fermilab began a unique partnership with Argonne and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories on an ambitious advanced-computing project. Together the three labs are developing a new, state-of-the-art cosmological simulation analysis toolbox that takes advantage of the Energy Department’s investments in supercomputers and specialized high-performance computing codes. Argonne’s team is led by Salman Habib, principal investigator, and Ravi Madduri, system designer. Jim Kowalkowski and Richard Gerber are the team leaders at Fermilab and Berkeley Lab.

For more information on the project, visit Image courtesy of the Dark Energy Survey.

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