Mark Trodden at Orange Quark:
The BBC is carrying a nice little story about the “Millenium Run”, a supercomputer simulation of cosmological structure formation, in which the dynamics of 10 billion dark matter particles were tracked over 13 billion years of cosmological evolution. Numerical simulations are a crucial part of modern cosmology, allowing us (where by “us” I mean people like me, but who know how to write huge, complicated N-body codes) to understand how well-defined interaction rules between dark matter particles, acting in an expanding cosmos, lead to the wonderfully rich, complex, and structured universe we see today.
Without the use of computers there are many ways to understand, in broad terms, how structure formation takes place. However, in order to make detailed comparisons between theory and observations, hard-core computational cosmology is a must.