Interview: Dr. Khanna And The PS3 Gravity Grid
PSXE: The PS3 is proving to be useful far beyond its gaming capabilities. Do you see more scientists and researchers choosing to use the system in the future?
Dr. Khanna: "Yes, absolutely. In fact, since my cluster caught public attention, I have received queries from several academic and industrial institutions and some are well on their way toward establishing similar clusters."
PSXE: What would you hope your students took away from a project like this, regardless of the outcome? And can we expect to see the world of physics tapping into the world of computing more often in the future?
Dr. Khanna: "Well, the message to the younger generation is that sometimes big opportunities come from very untraditional directions, and one should always stay alert and aware of what is going on in other areas. We have a very fast changing world and one has to be willing to learn new things throughout and be creative.
Computing is making a stronger and stronger impact on the sciences. Sometimes it is preferable to perform a 'simulated experiment' even when it is possible to do something similar in the laboratory, simply because of the steep cost associated to the laboratory research. Of course, in my area, simulation plays an even larger role - we simply can't take two black holes and have them collide in a laboratory!"
PSXE: Would the work you're doing now have been possible before the PS3? In other words, did this project require such a technological breakthrough?
Dr. Khanna: "So far, I had been doing my work using national supercomputing centers (SDSC, TACC, etc.). However, these are shared facilities, with long wait times, and require various research proposals, reports and approvals. With my PS3 cluster, I can now do most of my work right here in my laboratory. Plus, the cluster is dedicated to my research and is therefore always readily available.
The technological breakthrough is of a somewhat different nature here: With a very small investment, anyone can have access to supercomputing level performance for whatever research problem one is attempting to tackle. This is the model that has proved to be a success by what we have been able to do with our PS3 Gravity Grid."
PSXE: We are a gaming site, so we just have to ask- are you or anybody else involved with this work a gamer? And if so, what types of games do you enjoy playing?
Dr. Khanna: "I certainly do boot into the PS3's game partition now and then! I really do enjoy Tekken and also many of the car racing games (Paradise City [aka Burnout Paradise], MotorStorm, GT, etc). I not very good at them though :-(."
We certainly appreciate Dr. Khanna taking the time to answer our questions, and we really hope to see more projects like this in the future. While we love our games, we think it's just amazing that video game consoles are capable of such scientific feats. And always remember, this universe is a very big place, and there's a lot more to it than ring-tones and your girlfriend's birthday. ...well, don't forget the birthday, but keep that mind open!
For more information on Dr. Khanna's project, be sure to visit the PS3 Gravity Grid website. It's well worth your time.
4/6/2008 Ben Dutka