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PS3 Can Simulate Black Hole Collisions?

The immensely successful Folding@Home project has apparently sparked more scientific endeavors...and this one is complex enough to boggle the mind of anyone who isn't an astrophysicist.

If you visit this site, you can read all about how UMass has acquired 16 PlayStation 3 units to comprise their "PS3 Gravity Grid," which will hopefully simulate what happens if two black holes collided. No, we're not making this up. Headed in part by Gaurav Khanna, they have already installed Linux on the PS3s "to more accurately compute the 'ripples' caused by gravitational waves from black holes." Here's a sample of the explanation, and why they decided to go with the PS3 for this project:

"The Sony PlayStation 3 has a number of unique features that make it particularly suited for scientific computation. To start with, the PS3 is an open platform, which essentially means that one can run a different system software on it, for example, PowerPC Linux. Next, it has a revolutionary processor called the Cell processor which was developed by Sony, IBM and Toshiba. This processor has a main CPU, called the PPU and several (six for the PS3) special compute engines, called SPUs available for raw computation. Moreover, each SPU performs vector operations, which implies that it can compute on multiple data, in a single step. Finally, its incredibly low cost makes it very attractive as a scientific computing node, that is part of a cluster. In fact, its highly plausible that the raw computing power per dollar that the PS3 offers, is significantly higher than anything else on the market today!"

If you want to read more about the Binary Black Hole Coalescence using Perturbation Theory (GK), feel free. But in the meantime, we'd like to remind everyone of 1986 and Mario jumping around on the screen, much to our delight. Could we ever have imagined a video game console would be able to do this?

3/4/2008 Ben Dutka

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Wednesday, March 05, 2008 @ 12:31:26 PM

I wonder what percentage of PS3's sold world-wide are adopted by the scientific community?

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Wednesday, March 05, 2008 @ 5:35:20 PM

I think we will be hearing many more stories like this in the future, especially considering how much more economical a group of PS3's are compared to high-end mainframes (which is ironic being IBM makes a lot of the mainframes that are being undercut).

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