'For the first time, astrophysicists have used artificial intelligence techniques to generate complex 3D simulations of the universe. The results are so fast, accurate and robust that even the creators aren't sure how it all works.
"We can run these simulations in a few milliseconds, while other 'fast' simulations take a couple of minutes," says study co-author Shirley Ho, a group leader at the Flatiron Institute's Center for Computational Astrophysics in New York City and an adjunct professor at Carnegie Mellon University. "Not only that, but we're much more accurate."
The speed and accuracy of the project, called the Deep Density Displacement Model, or D3M for short, wasn't the biggest surprise to the researchers. The real shock was that D3M could accurately simulate how the universe would look if certain parameters were tweaked -- such as how much of the cosmos is dark matter -- even though the model had never received any training data where those parameters varied.
"It's like teaching image recognition software with lots of pictures of cats and dogs, but then it's able to recognize elephants," Ho explains. "Nobody knows how it does this, and it's a great mystery to be solved."
Ho and her colleagues present D3M June 24 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The study was led by Siyu He, a Flatiron Institute research analyst.
Ho and He worked in collaboration with Yin Li of the Berkeley Center for Cosmological Physics at the University of California, Berkeley, and the Kavli Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe near Tokyo; Yu Feng of the Berkeley Center for Cosmological Physics; Wei Chen of the Flatiron Institute; Siamak Ravanbakhsh of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver; and Barnabás Póczos of Carnegie Mellon University.
Computer simulations like those made by D3M have become essential to theoretical astrophysics. Scientists want to know how the cosmos might evolve under various scenarios, such as if the dark energy pulling the universe apart varied over time. Such studies require running thousands of simulations, making a lightning-fast and highly accurate computer model one of the major objectives of modern astrophysics.'
Read more: The first AI universe simulator is fast and accurate and its creators don't know how it works