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Simulating the universe using Einstein’s theory of gravity may solve cosmic puzzles

Until recently, simulations of the universe haven’t given its lumps their due

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3:30pm, November 14, 2017
simulation of lumpy universe

UNEVEN TERRAIN Universe simulations that consider general relativity (one shown) may shift knowledge of the cosmos.

If the universe were a soup, it would be more of a chunky minestrone than a silky-smooth tomato bisque.

Sprinkled with matter that clumps together due to the insatiable pull of gravity, the universe is a network of dense galaxy clusters and filaments — the hearty beans and vegetables of the cosmic stew. Meanwhile, relatively desolate pockets of the cosmos, known as voids, make up a thin, watery broth in between.

Until recently, simulations of the cosmos’s history haven’t given the lumps their due. The physics of those lumps is described by general relativity, Albert Einstein’s theory of gravity. But that theory’s equations are devilishly complicated to solve. To simulate how the universe’s clumps grow and change, scientists have fallen back on approximations, such as the simpler but less accurate theory of gravity devised by Isaac Newton.

Relying on such approximations, some physicists suggest, could be mucking with measurements,

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