Simulazioni al calcolatore e fisica teorica: evoluzione o rivoluzione?


We oppose numerical physics, i.e. numerical calculations serving the needs of traditional theoretical physics, to Computer Simulation (with focus on Condensed Matter). The latter is based on the idea that we can solve, by brute computing power, models of matter subjected to the exact laws of physics. In the case of Condensed Matter that amounts to solve the Schroedinger equation or, possibly, justified approximations to it and apply to the mechanical solution so obtained the rules of Statistical Mechanics. By this token Computer Simulation has established itself as the key tool of Theoretical Physics to which it has become constitutive. Let us refer to that as to the modern Theoretical Physics. It is not an exaggeration to say that this process - still now not completely understood by the traditional theoreticians - has been much more a revolution than a simple evolution of the discipline. So much so that today the predictive power of Physics has gone largely beyond its historical boundaries invading (and being in part reshaped by) not only Chemistry and its related disciplines but also Biology, Materials Science etc: from simple fluids to human immune response! The paper presents briefly the fundamental tools of this approach (Monte Carlo, Molecular Dynamics, Ab initio, Path Integrals, etc) and discusses the ingredients of its present success. Special merits go to algorithms and the specific techniques developed in the domain of High Performance Computing. Special credits are due to the computing centres, like CASPUR, which have understood the importance of the field and invested in it.


Numerical physics, computer simulation, Monte Carlo, HPC

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