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The LES will simulate everything on Earth including climate and environmental status  (Source:
Monstrous amounts of data will be fed into supercomputers that utilize technology never used before

A researcher from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology has joined forces with a group of scientists to create a grandiose computer project capable of simulating everything we know. 

Dr. Dirk Helbing, chairman of the FuturICT project at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, along with a team of scientists, have begun to collaborate on an Earth project that could change how we see the world -- literally. 

The computer project has been nicknamed the Living Earth Simulator (LES), and the idea behind it is to simulate everything on Earth, such as the spread of diseases, congestion on roads, international financial transactions and weather patterns. The project is aimed to epitomize both human and environmental actions that shape our world. 

Up until now, technology like the Large Hadron Collider, which is a particle accelerator created by Cern, has been one of the only Earth projects that provides a larger perspective of the universe. But Helbing argues that projects like the Large Hadron Collider do not provide enough information about our own planet, and that we need an accelerator that combines different branches of knowledge about Earth alone. 

"Revealing the hidden laws and processes underlying societies constitutes the most pressing scientific grand challenge of our century," said Helbing. 

Helbing and his team are looking to feed this computer system a "mammoth" amount of data, and then teach it how to understand what all the data means so it can interpret changes and patterns. Every piece of data involving activity on Earth will have to be logged into the simulator, and this simulator will be powered by supercomputers that can crunch these numbers on a large scale. According to Helbing, "much of the data is already being generated." They are already currently using more than 70 online data sources such as Google Maps and Wikipedia. 

After integrating a monstrous amount of data into the simulator, Helbing and his team will use the knowledge of computer scientists, social scientists and engineers to build a framework to convert this data into models that mimic what is happening on Earth at that moment. 

The next step is to help the simulator understand what all the data and models mean. According to Helbing, the supercomputers will be able to do this over time. With semantic web technology, researchers will be able to encode the data alongside a description of the data, which helps the simulator to better understand exactly what it is reading. This not only applies to environmental, financial, or medical data, but human behavior as well.

"Many problems we have today - including social and economic instabilities, wars,disease spreading - are related to human behavior, but there is apparently a serious lack of understanding regarding how society and the economy work," said Helbing. 

While the simulator will follow human behavior, it will also "strip out" any information in its data that relates directly to the person so that no personal information is leaked or shared. An approach to carrying out such an amount of economic and social data still needs to be agreed upon by researchers, but once they cross that threshold, supercomputers will be built to suit this particular task as well. 

Helbing noted that generating the amount of computational power to run the LES will be challenging, but will in no way halt the project. Researchers working for the FuturICT project hope the LES will lead to better methods of measuring the state of society, which could further help with environmental, health and educational problems. 

"Economics and sociology have consistently failed to produce theories with strong predictive powers over the last century, despite lots of data gathering," said Helbing. "I'm skeptical that larger data sets will mark a big change. It's not that we don't know enough about a lot of the problems the world faces, from climate change to extreme poverty, it's that we don't take any action on the information we do have."

But Helbing also says that the technology that will be used for the LES will only become available in the coming decade, meaning that it will be able to produce models and images as well as learn data in a whole new way, which will ultimately help researchers and world leaders develop new methods of improving societal issues.

"Over the past years, it has for example become obvious that we need better indicators than the gross national product to judge societal development and well-being," said Helbing.

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The answer is...
By MrBlastman on 12/29/2010 1:06:16 PM , Rating: 5

I just saved us billions of dollars in research grants. :)

RE: The answer is...
By Anoxanmore on 12/29/2010 1:10:36 PM , Rating: 2
Dude, SimEarth was freaking hard, unless you cheated.

RE: The answer is...
By MrBlastman on 12/29/2010 1:24:42 PM , Rating: 2
It was hard. The interface didn't help things either. Even though it came out in the DOS days, as DOS game interfaces are concerned it was clunky as heck. I suppose, my lack of SVGA support at the time didn't help things.

RE: The answer is...
By Anoxanmore on 12/29/2010 4:06:12 PM , Rating: 2
Wait what? DOS?

Pfft, no one used DOS to play SimEarth. SNES FTW.

That being said, having to leave the game run by itself for hours on end just to may be see if bacteria can turn into shellfish to turn into horses that turn into civilizations is kind of why it was hard.

I have patience, but even that thing tried my patience, so while it was "cooking" in its own evolutionary juices I usually went outside and played in the desert. :)

RE: The answer is...
By drycrust3 on 12/29/2010 2:07:24 PM , Rating: 5
Helbing and his team are looking to feed this computer system a "mammoth" amount of data, and then

Ha ha, the irony: Deep Thought spent millions of years calculating an answer that was always going to be wrong because somewhere in the middle of the experiment corrupted data was added by Arthur Dent & all those "middlemen" people crash landing on earth.
Will this computer be able to discern between the data that the ICC whatever people corrupted and the data they didn't? I doubt it, so they will feed garbage to this computer, it will do its "Deep Thought" process for a few years, and then they will wonder why the results it produces don't match reality. Just another example of the saying "Garbage in Garbage out" in action.

RE: The answer is...
By BZDTemp on 12/29/2010 4:12:46 PM , Rating: 2
Damn - that was my first thought also :-)

Considering how much debate there is about something as "simple" as economic models an Earth sim may just as well come up with 42 as the answer.

Hubris anyone
By rcc on 12/29/2010 2:04:52 PM , Rating: 4
It takes a huge case of hubris to presume that they have the knowledge to model Earth in it's entirety. The technology and knowledge doesn't exist. Perhaps with 20-30 years of work and a boatload of money they can come up with an approximation of the grosser physical trends, but I'd be surprised.

When they can run their LES for a century, one or two years ahead of current time and accurately predict pretty much everything, I'll be impressed. Until then it sounds like a another funding boondoggle.

IMNSHO, of course.

Oh, and should we start a pool on the number of lines of code required???????

RE: Hubris anyone
By mkrech on 12/29/2010 3:28:12 PM , Rating: 5
Ah, but the goal is not to accurately model the entire earth. The goal is to create a model with a predetermined result. The simulation only needs to be complex enough to support a marketing strategy intended to convince most Americans that it is indeed fact.

Based on the average intelligence Americans have been presenting lately that should not be a difficult task.

RE: Hubris anyone
By mkrech on 12/29/2010 3:37:10 PM , Rating: 4
* with predetermined results .
* I referred to Americans but I think it is safe to say people in general.

I agree with rcc, until this model can accurately and consistently predict the future it has extremely limited value.

RE: Hubris anyone
By AstroGuardian on 12/30/2010 6:11:21 AM , Rating: 2
+1 this sounds like a big mambo-jumbo to me. This project would have to be COLOSSAL! Not even a project but a dedication!

RE: Hubris anyone
By TacticalTrading on 12/30/2010 4:09:55 PM , Rating: 2
Model the Earth....
Tell you what. When they can accurately model and or predict my 12-Year Old Daughter's behavior, what she will or won't do and or what will trigger a tantrum at any given moment, ... Well, Then they might have a fighting chance of actually getting somewhat close to understanding exactly how complicated the people on Earth really are.

Phrased another way: This project will fail for one reason and one reason only....

For those of the female persuasion, Just kidding... well, not really <grin>

Who wants to bet
By FITCamaro on 12/29/2010 1:29:33 PM , Rating: 2
The model will predict that cars and coal power plants will be the source of the Earth's destruction?

RE: Who wants to bet
By bug77 on 12/29/2010 1:42:15 PM , Rating: 2
That's gonna be a part of the model's validation stage. Obviously.

RE: Who wants to bet
By bah12 on 12/29/2010 2:21:00 PM , Rating: 2
You are WAY off FIT, it will obviously predict that the world ended 6 years ago.

RE: Who wants to bet
By Spuke on 12/29/2010 2:44:05 PM , Rating: 5
The model will predict that American cars and coal power plants will be the source of the Earth's destruction?
Fixed that for you.

Not a moment too soon
By lifewatcher on 12/29/2010 4:54:59 PM , Rating: 2
This project has the potential to become a milestone, if implemented well. I hope they create the hardware, A.I. and physics model on a modular platform, so that the entire system could be upgraded constantly, without getting it offline ever.

Once it starts predicting the moves of the stock market mostly accurately, I'll pop the cork of a champagne bottle, as I can't stand the parasites from Wall St.

But even if this thing sucks as an oracle, I'd still be glad to have a massive data collector/analyzer. Putting things into perspective is getting challenging for a human mind.

RE: Not a moment too soon
By stilltrying on 12/29/2010 6:36:28 PM , Rating: 5
Are you serious? The stock market is rigged from the get go. All of it. They want to study financial data too with live earth, what a joke. Today international markets are nothing but ponzi schemes. These people want absolute control over absolutely everything, you willing to give it to them.

....Because models are so good
By ThreatcoreNews on 12/29/2010 9:58:36 PM , Rating: 2
We already know the performance of models in modern age. GFS, GISS, NAM, NAVY, CMC, UK models disagree on a full-out blizzard on the East coast only two days from the event.

Now you're talking about crunching 'data' which is the scope of the topic itself. I could offer an opinion on the results 10 years from now.

RE: ....Because models are so good
By Lerianis on 12/30/2010 2:54:36 PM , Rating: 2
10 years? I'm thinking more 100 years from now. The fact is that Earth's climate and weather are VERY CHAOTIC when it comes down to brass tacks.

Nearly impossible to 'simulate' at all, because of outside factors: light from stars far away, which does heat the Earth a little; our Sun pumping out more or less energy in various forms; etc.

Trying to model the planet is a crapshoot of the worst sort, where you are trying to put a basketball in a hoop the size of a needle-point.

Little problem with this simulator
By Lerianis on 12/29/2010 1:45:26 PM , Rating: 2
What if someone messes with the equations or something else to show that 'climate change' is causing problems?

That is why I don't trust these 'one place' modeling things..... too easy to punk them either intentionally or by accident.

By delphinus100 on 12/29/2010 5:33:23 PM , Rating: 2
Hmm. How do we know we're not living in a very high fidelity/resolution 'SimEarth,' right now...?

I wonder....
By blueeyesm on 12/29/2010 8:12:16 PM , Rating: 2
if I imagine there are no countries, posessions, or Heaven there.

I know it's easy if I try, but much more realizble with a Sim.

Global Warming believers...
By chunkymonster on 12/30/2010 10:00:10 AM , Rating: 2
GW believers will be using this SIM Earth to support their latest theories as to how quickly CO2 and greenhouse gases are destroying the earth and pass it off as actual scientific research. Jumpin' Jiminy, just what we need, more hack scientists with delusions of grandeur backed by global corporations with political agendas and corrupt UN Committees using more incomplete data to make far out assumptions on the fate of our planet.

I can see it on CNN now...

At the Senate Sub-Committee hearings on GW;
Senator - So, your model predicts that the increase in CO2 and greenhouse gases will make the earth unlivable to human being in how may years?
GW Believer - The model predicts that will happen in about 2-3 years.
Senator - And, you are basing the research on which data set; satellite, weather station, ice core samples?
GW Believer - No Senator, none of those things. We have a copy of SIMEarth loaded on our laptop here and it clearly predicts that if CO2 and greenhouse gases continue to rise, that the earth will be unable to sustain human life in 2-3 years.
Senator - Did I hear you correctly? Did you say you based your research on SIMEarth?
GW Believer - Yes Senator.
Senator - Well then, then let's pass cap-and-trade immediately and make a law banning the creation of any further CO2 and greenhouse gases!

What about the research that shows the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is actually slowing down the Gulf Stream and reducing the amount of warm water moving up the East Coast of the U.S. to the Arctic? If true and the slowing trend continues, it potentially could result in a drop in temps in the entire Northern Hemisphere and increase the growth of the polar caps effectively creating a mini-ice age. WTF about that?

GW warming and its supporters all have end-of-the-world fatalistic views fueled by their own sense or mortality.

By Motoman on 12/30/2010 11:37:38 AM , Rating: 2
I never did SimEarth...but I did SimLife way back in the day.

Dragons and aloe as far as the eye can see.

If this thing can't make dragons, then I don't care.

By SlyNine on 12/30/2010 12:33:20 PM , Rating: 2
What about when I go to the John, will it simulate that?

By cochy on 12/29/10, Rating: -1
"And boy have we patented it!" -- Steve Jobs, Macworld 2007

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