Caught the movie "Deep Impact" yet? Just how real-to-life does Steven Spielberg's blockbuster portray an asteroid striking the planet Earth? Computer scientists at Sandia National Laboratories think they can better approximate a real asteroid catastrophe. Using virtual reality techniques, decades of experience in shock physics, advanced computer programs, and the world's fastest computer, the scientists recently completed one of the largest hypervelocity impact physics calculations ever performed. In the computing scenario, an asteroid 1.4 km in diameter strikes the Atlantic Ocean 25 miles south of Brooklyn, NY. To model the event, the scientists broke up a 120-square-mile space that roughly corresponds to the New York City metropolitan area, the air above, and the water and earth below, into 100 million separate grids. Sandia's teraflops supercomputer then calculated what happened in each cube as the asteroid splashed down. The researchers then reassembled the cubes to produce a 3D movie of the collision. How did Spielberg do? According to the simulation, the impact would vaporize the asteroid, deform the ocean floor, and eject hundreds of cubic miles of superheated water vapor, melted rock, and other debris into the upper atmosphere and back into space. The debris would rain down over the world for the next several hours and form a high global cloud. The shock wave from the impact would level much of the New England region. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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