Feeds

Boffin stacks 16 PS3s to simulate black hole collisions

Consoles for cosmology

Intelligent flash storage arrays

When most of us arrived home with our newly purchased PS3, we couldn't wait to start annihilating aliens in Resistance: Fall of Man or kicking butt kung fu-style in Virtua Fighter 5. Not astrophysicist Gaurav Khanna - he used his to build a supercomputer.

Khanna now owns a total of 16 PS3 consoles, all linked together to provide the same computing power as a 400-node supercomputer. His set up, which he calls a 'gravity grid', is used to simulate the activity of very large black holes for the Physics Department at the University of Massachusetts.

Rack mounted PS3s at the University of Massachusetts

Stacked Sonies: the 'gravity grid' set up

The project is an attempt to estimate the properties of gravity waves generated by the collision of two black holes. Gravitational waves are 'ripples' in space-time that travel at the speed of light. These were theoretically predicted by Einstein's general relativity, but have never been directly observed.

In order to run his simulation data on the consoles, Khanna had to load the PS3s with Linux. What makes the gaming console more effective than high-end computers for complex research algorithms is the Cell chip built by IBM to process high-end gaming functions.

PS3 cosmology rack

Linux powered

"Linux can turn any system into a general-purpose computer, but for it to work for me I have to run my own code on it for astrophysics applications. The hard part of the job was to make sure my own calculations could run fast on the platform, which meant I had to optimise the written code so it could utilise the new features of the system."

The 16 PS3s haven't been physically modified. They're networked together using an inexpensive Gigabit Ethernet switch.

"Overall, a single PS3 performs better than the highest-end desktops available and compares to as many as 25 nodes of an IBM Blue Gene supercomputer," Khanna noted.

More details from Khanna's project site here.

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

More from The Register

next story
Don't wait for that big iPad, order a NEXUS 9 instead, industry little bird says
Google said to debut next big slab, Android L ahead of Apple event
Netscape Navigator - the browser that started it all - turns 20
It was 20 years ago today, Marc Andreeesen taught the band to play
A drone of one's own: Reg buyers' guide for UAV fanciers
Hardware: Check. Software: Huh? Licence: Licence...?
Jaguar Sportbrake: The chicken tikka masala of van-sized posh cars
Indian-owned Jag's latest offering curries favour with us
The Apple launch AS IT HAPPENED: Totally SERIOUS coverage, not for haters
Fandroids, Windows Phone fringe-oids – you wouldn't understand
Apple SILENCES Bose, YANKS headphones from stores
The, er, Beats go on after noise-cancelling spat
Here's your chance to buy an ancient, working APPLE ONE
Warning: Likely to cost a lot even for a Mac
Xiaomi boss snaps back at Jony Ive's iPhone rival 'theft' swipe
I'll have a handset delivered. Judge us after you try us...
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.