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How computers have changed the way we do physics

Saturday, February 6, 2016 - 10:30
Martin Wood Lecture Theatre, Clarendon Laboratory

The power of available computers has now grown exponentially for many decades. The ability to discover numerically the implications of equations and models has opened our eyes to previously hidden aspects of physics and greatly extended the range of phenomena to which the concepts of physics can be applied. 

The most recent Morning of Theoretical Physics was held on Saturday 6th February 2016. The first talk explained the challenges involved in using massive computational resources to make weather and climate predictions. The second talk showed how simulations can reveal remarkable regularities and patterns in complex systems ranging from the molecules in a glass of water to the whole of human society. The final talk centred on the simulation of quantum systems, which a priori requires computational resources that grow exponentially with the system's size. While this rules out brute force simulations, clever algorithms are now being developed that sidestep this problem.