Originally Posted by UltraMega
Are other physics engines not multi threaded? Is there anything special about this?
Finite Element Methods is how scientists and engineers actually model physical systems (along with finite difference). It's a numerical technique to solve non-linear, high order partial differential equations, often coupled.
It's a slow, computationally expensive technique since you're literally breaking down a physical problem in to thousands and millions or billions of simple elements and iterating them from an initial condition with boundary conditions until a solution is stable... on top of that coupling it with other physical models (think, heat transfer solution affecting thermal strain and material strength solutions).
Again, this is how actual physical models are solved for complex problems... like aerodynamics, material behavior... everything... nuclear weapons, heat transfer, weather models, etc. All those YUGE super computers are great for this because it extremely parallelized computation like graphics... it essentially ends up as one YUGE matrix operation.
Even in a simplified form, it's slow for games and real-time situations.
AMD took a SMALL application of this technique and got it working quickly enough for games. Anything that will make games look and move and deform more realistically is great imho. Games haven't "loosened" up much in the past 10 or 15 years... everything is so rigid... I, of course, blame crappy console CPUs.