Illustris is the most advanced and accurate computer simulation of our universe yet, taking our best theories and observations and recreating an area of the universe 350 million light years across.
According to the study’s co-author, Shy Genel, “Illustris is like a time machine. We can go forward and backward in time. We can pause the simulation and zoom into a single galaxy or galaxy cluster to see what’s really going on.”
Here’s an infographic made available by Karl Tate and Space.com, outlining how these simulations model the universe.
Images of the simulation compared to those taken by the Hubble Space Telescope are remarkably similar, but there are differences between the outcome of the simulation and our reality. For example, the stars of low-mass galaxies in the simulation are older than those in the actual universe; the simulated low-mass galaxies, for whatever reason, formed too soon.
Now imagine if, within this simulation, simulated humans popped up on a simulated Earth. And then they created their own simulation. How far down does the rabbit hole go? Maybe we’re in a simulation right now!
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