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  •  monte carlo method (11+ / 0-)

    Monte Carlo calculations

    Before the Monte Carlo method was developed, simulations tested a previously understood deterministic problem and statistical sampling was used to estimate uncertainties in the simulations. Monte Carlo simulations invert this approach, solving deterministic problems using a probabilistic analog (see Simulated annealing).

    In 1946, physicists at Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory were investigating radiation shielding and the distance that neutrons would likely travel through various materials.

    Despite having most of the necessary data, such as the average distance a neutron would travel in a substance before it collided with an atomic nucleus, and how much energy the neutron was likely to give off following a collision, the Los Alamos physicists were unable to solve the problem using conventional, deterministic mathematical methods. Stanislaw Ulam had the idea of using random experiments. He recounts his inspiration as follows:

    The first thoughts and attempts I made to practice [the Monte Carlo Method] were suggested by a question which occurred to me in 1946 as I was convalescing from an illness and playing solitaires. The question was what are the chances that a Canfield solitaire laid out with 52 cards will come out successfully?

    After spending a lot of time trying to estimate them by pure combinatorial calculations, I wondered whether a more practical method than "abstract thinking" might not be to lay it out say one hundred times and simply observe and count the number of successful plays.

    This was already possible to envisage with the beginning of the new era of fast computers, and I immediately thought of problems of neutron diffusion and other questions of mathematical physics, and more generally how to change processes described by certain differential equations into an equivalent form interpretable as a succession of random operations. Later [in 1946], I described the idea to John von Neumann, and we began to plan actual calculations.

    Monte Carlo methods were central to the simulations required for the Manhattan Project, though severely limited by the computational tools at the time. In the 1950s they were used at Los Alamos for early work relating to the development of the hydrogen bomb, and became popularized in the fields of physics, physical chemistry, and operations research. The Rand Corporation and the U.S. Air Force were two of the major organizations responsible for funding and disseminating information on Monte Carlo methods during this time, and they began to find a wide application in many different fields.

    You can see a lot just by looking. ~ Yogi Berra

    by anyname on Sun Mar 02, 2014 at 09:05:30 PM PST

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