Computers have become indispensable to scientific research. They are essential for collecting and analyzing experimental data, and they have largely replaced pencil and paper as the theorist’s main tool. Computers let theorists extend their studies of physical, chemical, and biological systems by solving difficult nonlinear problems in magnetohydrodynamics; atomic, molecular, and nuclear structure; fluid turbulence; shock hydrodynamics; and cosmological structure formation.

Beyond such well-established aids to theorists and experimenters, the exponential growth of computer power is now launching the new field of computational science. Multidisciplinary computational teams are beginning to develop large-scale predictive simulations of highly complex technical problems. Large-scale codes have been created to simulate, with unprecedented fidelity, phenomena such as supernova explosions (see figures 1 and 2), inertial-confinement fusion, nuclear explosions (see the box on page 38), asteroid impacts (figure 3), and the effect of space weather on Earth’s magnetosphere (figure 4).

Computational simulation has...

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