If this gets off the drawing board, it would be what the BBC describes as one of the "most ambitious computer projects" in history. The so-called Living Earth Simulator would crunch mind-boggling amounts of data in supercomputers around the world to keep track of and help predict pretty much everything happening on the planet, from disease outbreaks to wars, weird weather, market crashes, traffic patterns on specific roads, you name it.
The LES, officially called the FuturlCT project, is the baby of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology and would be something like a "knowledge accelerator," much as the Large Hadron Collider is a particle accelerator, explains the BBC. If it's a bit hard to wrap your head around, that's for good reason: The supercomputers needed are still years away, and it would take a partnership of computer scientists and social scientists to figure out how to get them to process all that data correctly. "Revealing the hidden laws and processes underlying societies constitutes the most pressing scientific grand challenge of our century," says the lead scientist. (Read more LES stories.)