Foundations of Computer Science/Simulation


Simulation can be a very powerful way to represent real-world systems, scenarios, and experiments. Simulation is the recreation of a real-world system in a prepared and controlled environment. As we study different objects and environments we see the complexity of measuring, analyzing, and emulating events such as nature. Although it is impossible to produce 100% accuracy and detail; the two are used to attempt to create an environment as close as possible to mimicking real-world systems. In order to achieve a higher level of accuracy and detail we focus on the most important aspects of the system we hope to simulate. The higher the granularity in detail the more likely we are to accurately predict what will happen in a real world environment.

The three motivating factors behind using simulation instead of real world experimentation are:

  • Control - Gives us the ability to explore problems that were utterly out of reach due to our lack of control over a real world situation. For example, if we are attempting to simulate a storm or hurricane these are events we have no control over, but studying the paths could be beneficial in predicting future effects and climate changes.
  • Cost - Conducting experiments in real system can be costly both in regards to time and money. For example, instead of automotive manufacturers crashing several cars for testing they can use simulations to mimic different car crashes, angles, and scenarios without spending time and money on an actual car.
  • Safety - Certain experiments can be dangerous or harmful and simulations. Scientists are able to simulate events such as virus outbreaks, aircraft engine failure, and even testing nuclear bomb material (more info on atomic bomb simulations).


Modeling is the process of describing how the components of a simulation looks and behaves. During this process we model the behavior and interactions of all components. Although we are using loose approximations these simulated versions can be a surprisingly accurate recreation of the real world system.