Programming Concepts: Simulations
One of the main uses of computers is to simulate real life scenarios. You might have made a spreadsheet at school to simulate the amount of money made by a shop, or driven a formula one car on your console at home. Some of the most powerful computers in the world are used to simulate complex phenomena including
- Financial models
- Nuclear explosions
- Coastal erosion
If you ever watch the weather forecast all the predictions are made by software simulating weather patterns. If you ever wonder why there aren't so many nuclear tests any more, there is no need as computers can simulate what happens.
With such powerful computers simulating models you might question why we are so bad at predicting the weather and how simulations can give the wrong results. This may be because the model being used is set up in completely the wrong way, but it may also be a result of chaos theory. Chaos theory states that any tiny differences in the initial starting conditions (such as those due to rounding errors in numerical computation) will have a huge effect on how the system performs in the long run. Rendering long-term prediction impossible in general. This can be seen in the inability of weather forecasts to get long term forecasts correct. This is also known through the butterfly effect, where Philip Merilees stated "Does the flap of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil set off a tornado in Texas?"
The imitation of a process of a real system.
- The margin of error increases over time, as more variables interact with the system, causing errors and unforeseen circumstances that could enter the system, causing it to stop accurately working in the long term.