What are computer simulations in physics for?

On simulation of status of a star

In order to build an expensive detector for experiments at accelerators or in space, one should carefully calculate the response it gives to elementary particles trapped in it. Here, the nature has prepared a sea of scenarios that could be played for the fate of a particle entering the detector material. There, it can break a nucleus of the atom, annihilate, just fly through, and a lot else. Going through all the options is exactly a job for a computer. It can play — as in Monte Carlo — all of them, and can even repeat the procedure for a million of particles in a few hours. To do this, the special simulation programs have been created over the decades, in which all known variants of the particle’s fate are laid once and for all. Now you need only to tell the computer about the size and shape of detector’s elements as well as about the materials that are used for them.

Simulation of particle collisions in the CMS detector

The computer adds the volumes of blue cells for each collision, i.e., ten million times per second.


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