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Computer simulation

A computer simulation or a computer model is a computer program which attempts to simulate an abstract model of a particular system. Computer simulations have become a useful part of modeling many natural systems in physics, chemistry and biology, human systems in economics and social science and in the process of engineering new technology, to gain insight into the operation of those systems. Traditionally, the formal modeling of systems has been via a mathematical model, which attempts to find analytical solutions to problems which enables the prediction of the behaviour of the system from a set of parameters and initial conditions. Computer simulations build on, and are a useful adjunct to purely mathematical models in science and technology and entertainment.

Table of contents
1 History
2 Types of computer simulation
3 Computer simulation in science
4 Computer simulation in practical contexts


Computer simulation was developed hand-in-hand with the rapid growth of the computer, following its first large-scale deployment during the Manhattan Project in World War II to model the process of nuclear detonation. Computer simulation is often used an adjunct to, or substitution for, modeling systems for which simple closed form analytic solutions are not possible. There are many different types of computer simulation; the common feature they all share is the attempt to generate a sample of representative scenarios for a model in which a complete enumeration of all possible states of the model would be prohibitive or impossible.

Types of computer simulation

Computer simulations generally fall into several different types:

Computer simulation in science

Examples of types of computer simulations in science, which are derived from an underlying mathematical description:

Examples of other types of simulations: Notable, and sometimes controversial, computer simulations used in science include: Donella Meadows' World3 used in the Limits to Growth, James Lovelock's Daisyworld and Thomas Ray's Tierra.

Computer simulation in practical contexts

In engineering and practical contexts, it's often very important to display the results of a simulation in real time, to provide a realistic simulation for the trainee or gamer.