Cosmos bytes into meaning of life

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The Independent Online
In Douglas Adams's book The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, a computer called Deep Thought concluded that the ultimate answer to the ultimate question of "Life, the Universe and Everything" was 42.

Now British scientists have devised their equivalent of Deep Thought - a pounds 2m Silicon Graphics Origin 2000 computer called Cosmos.

Scientists in the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics at Cambridge University say Cosmos will be able to answer fundamental questions about the universe. They hope the computer will help them model a history of the universe from the first fractions of a second after the Big Bang to the present day, about 10 billion years later.

Cosmos has 32 high-performance R10000 processors and 8,000 megabytes of main memory. The project has been led by the physicist Professor Stephen Hawking, author of A Brief History of Time.

Professor Hawking, principal investigator of the UK Computational Cosmology Consortium, said: "The Cosmos computer will enable us to calculate what our theories of the early universe predict and test them against the new observational results that are now coming in."

Consortium members include scientists from the universities of Cardiff, Durham, Oxford, and Sussex, Imperial College, London, and the Royal Observatory in Edinburgh.