Monte Carlo Method

The advent of computing allowed for major innovation in the realm of simulation. Metropolis led a group that developed the Monte Carlo method, which simulates the results of an experiment by using a broad set of random numbers. It was named for the Monte Carlo casino, where Stanislaw Ulam’s uncle often gambled. First invented during the Manhattan Project, the Monte Carlo method had been used on old analog computers. However, that work was slow and time consuming. By using MANIAC, physicists like Fermi and Teller could perform simulations much faster. This allowed for better understandings the behaviors of particles and atoms.

MANIAC was used for innumerable other experiments and discoveries. In 1953 and 1954, it performed analysis that helped discover the Delta particle, a new sub-atomic particle. George Gamow used it for early research into genetics. MANIAC also contributed to advancements in two-dimensional hydrodynamics, iterative functions, and nuclear cascades. And, in 1956, Mark Wells wrote a program to simulate “Los Alamos Chess,” a bishop-less, six-by-six version of the classic board game. In so doing, MANIAC became the first computer to play, and then beat a human, at a chess-like game.

Image : The story of how early computing heros John von Neumann, Stan Ulam, Nicholas Metropolis, and others created the foundations of computer science (and the hydrogen bomb)