Joint COSMOS press release (7/4/97)

The following press release of the UK Computational Cosmology Consortium was issued jointly on 7th April 1997 by the University of Cambridge Press Office and Silicon Graphics/Cray Research Incorporated:

COSMOS arrives in Cambridge

World's only national cosmology supercomputer will support UK research.

UK scientists investigating the history of the universe have installed a new supercomputer at Cambridge University to support their research. The Silicon Graphics Origin2000 supercomputer (valued at £2M), which has been named COSMOS, will be owned and used by a nation-wide group of cosmologists, the UK Computational Cosmology Consortium (UK-CCC). Members of the Consortium say that COSMOS represents a vital step in maintaining and enhancing the UK's high international standing in this very competitive field. The new computer will enable UK theorists to model the history of the universe from the first fractions of a second after the Big Bang, right through to the present day, some ten billion years later.

Professor Stephen Hawking, principal investigator of the UK-CCC, said of this new arrival: "The COSMOS computer will enable us to calculate what our theories of the early universe predict and test them against the new observational results that are now coming in."

The UK-CCC represents an important collaboration between all the major British groups working in computational cosmology. A key strength of the Consortium is its interdisciplinary nature that brings together both particle cosmologists and astrophysicists. Other members of the UK-CCC include the Universities of Cardiff, Durham, Oxford and Sussex, Imperial College, London and the Royal Observatory in Edinburgh (please see attached comments from these members).

Dave Orton, Vice President of Silicon Graphics' Scalable Systems Group said: "As one of the world's leading centres for scientific research and a demanding user of computing and visualisation technology, Cambridge is constantly setting new technological challenges for high performance computing. We enjoy meeting these challenges. Silicon Graphics and Cray Research are proud to provide the extremely powerful computing solutions that the leading edge work of researchers such as Professor Hawking and his colleagues demands."

The partnership that has developed between Silicon Graphics, its supercomputer subsidiary Cray Research and the UK-CCC was initiated last year through a visit by Professor Hawking to Silicon Graphics' headquarters in Mountain View, California. As well as the company's substantial support, the crucial contribution for the project came from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) through its 1996 Joint Research Equipment Initiative. The Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council (PPARC) has also provided funding.

Dr Paul Shellard, director of the new UK-CCC facility said: "In recent years interest in cosmology has exploded, driven in part by novel theoretical ideas connecting the formation of galaxies in our universe with fundamental high energy theory and relativity. Many of these ideas about the early universe were first proposed by UK theorists -- on COSMOS their mathematical models can now be realised in large-scale numerical simulations and directly compared with a rapidly growing body of observational data about our universe."

Notes for Editors:

1. The new supercomputer will be held in Cambridge University's Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics.

2. COSMOS has 32 high performance R10000 processors and 8,000 Mbytes of main memory. It is the largest Origin2000 supercomputer in the UK, representing the first wave in a new generation of scalable shared-memory multiprocessor computer architectures (S2MP) from Silicon Graphics and Cray Research.

For more information please contact:

1. The COSMOS website:

2. Dr Paul Shellard, Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics,
University of Cambridge.
Tel: 01223 337896 or 01223 337843; email:

3. Andrew Spybey, Silicon Graphics
Tel: 01734 257500; email:

4. Gareth Thompson, Hunt Thompson
Tel: 0171 872 5636; email:

5. Carol Barker or Louise Simpson, Press and Publications Office,
University of Cambridge
Tel: 01223 332300; email:

Quotes from UK-CCC Members:

The following quotations by consortium members with their contact telephone numbers forms an attachment to the 7th April 1997 press release:

Dr Andreas Albrecht (Imperial College, London)
Telephone: (0171) 594 7836 or (0171) 594 7843

"Throughout history adventurers of all sorts have pushed the technology of their times to the absolute limit ... Today's frontiers reach to the distant galaxies, and modern adventurers are using supercomputers and satellites to explore this cosmic domain. Our partnership with SGI recognises that all parties stand to gain as scientists push the world's most advanced supercomputers to study the origin of the Universe. We are all looking forward to reaping great rewards from these efforts."

Professor Carlos Frenk (Durham University)
Telephone: (0191) 374 2141 or (0191) 374 2165

"UK cosmologists will now have at their disposal computing resources comparable to those of the best groups in the world. Nowadays this is the prerequisite for finding out about certain fundamental aspects of what makes our Universe tick."

Dr Mark Hindmarsh (Sussex University)
Telephone: (01273) 678934 or (01273) 678557

"This supercomputer will enable a unique collaboration between particle physicists and astronomers to shed light on the major problems of modern cosmology."

Professor Tom Kibble FRS (Imperial College, London)
Telephone: (0171) 594 7845 or (0171) 594 7843

"This new state-of-the-art supercomputer will put the UK's rapidly growing particle cosmology community ahead of the international competition and allow us to probe the mysteries of the universe."

Professor John Peacock (Royal Observatory, Edinburgh)
Telephone: (0131) 668 8390 or (0131) 668 8100

"In the past, using the most powerful computers for cosmology has been made difficult by the need to learn highly specialised and complicated languages - meaning that it could take years to obtain a working program. What the COSMOS does that is so invaluable is to allow existing programs to work 50 times faster in many cases. This is very exciting, as it means that questions which were previously unthinkably difficult can be answered in a few weeks."

Professor Neil Turok (DAMTP, Cambridge)
Telephone: (01223) 337872 or (01223) 337873

"Understanding the origins of the universe is a new and increasingly precise science. COSMOS has in its first weeks allowed us to perform two groundbreaking calculations. We have computed the rate of matter and antimatter production in the hot early universe, and the pattern of cosmic microwave fluctuations predicted in the cosmic texture theory. These results address some of nature's most profound questions, namely the origin of matter and structure in the universe. Both results relate to experimental measurements currently being made. And both will be reported at specialist scientific conferences over the next two months."

For further information about UK-CCC consortium members and institutions refer to:

Silicon Graphics Background

The following information has been added to the Silicon Graphics version of the joint press release (7/4/97):

Silicon Graphics, Inc. is a leading supplier of high-performance interactive computing systems. The company offers the broadest range of products in the industry - from low-end desktop workstations to servers and high-end Cray supercomputers. Silicon Graphics also markets MIPS microprocessor designs, Alias|Wavefront entertainment and design software and other software products. The company's key markets include manufacturing, government, science & industries, telecommunications and entertainment sectors.

Silicon Graphics and its subsidiaries have offices throughout the world and headquarters in Mountain View, California. The company posted standalone revenues of $2.8 billion for the 1996 financial year. Established in the UK in 1986, Silicon Graphics Limited employs 275 people, with headquarters in Theale, near Reading and offices in Salford, Falkirk and London. The UK operation generated revenues of £95 million (unaudited) in the 1996 financial year.

Further background information on Silicon Graphics is available on the World Wide Web at:

The COSMOS tour

Take a guided and illustrated tour describing the new national cosmology supercomputer and the exciting science which initiated this project.