A computer facility just launched may help in unravelling some long-standing scientific riddles.
The High Performance Service for Physics, Astronomy, Chemistry and Earth Sciences at University College London will provide local high-performance computing for physical sciences research.
HiPerSPACE will house Origin 2000 computers, which can carry out 50 billion calculations per second and which have a memory capacity of 30 billion bytes.
The centre, supported by the Joint Research Equipment Initiative and the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council, will allow a deeper understanding of earth processes and precise simulation of materials at the atomic level to bring about major advances in earthquake prediction.
Other gains will include rapid strides in nano-technologies, thanks to an important collaboration between some of the UK's leading computational scientists and the computer company SGI.
Science minister Lord Sainsbury, who was at the launch, said: "Access to sophisticated computer modelling and simulation is often one of the criteria that separates good quality research programmes from those that are truly world class."
Simulation and computational techniques are crucial for technological advances in many commercial areas and the Foresight initiative recognised this as a priority.