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Boffin stacks 16 PS3s to simulate black hole collisions
The Register ^ | 28 February 2008 | Scott Snowden

Posted on 03/05/2008 11:40:02 AM PST by ShadowAce

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.


TOPICS: Computers/Internet
KEYWORDS: astrophysics; linux; ps3

1 posted on 03/05/2008 11:40:03 AM PST by ShadowAce
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To: rdb3; Calvinist_Dark_Lord; GodGunsandGuts; CyberCowboy777; Salo; Bobsat; JosephW; ...

2 posted on 03/05/2008 11:40:18 AM PST by ShadowAce (Linux -- The Ultimate Windows Service Pack)
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To: ShadowAce

Oh yeah, well how many Commodore 64’s will it take?


3 posted on 03/05/2008 11:44:57 AM PST by ladtx ( "Never miss a good chance to shut up." - - Will Rogers)
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To: ShadowAce

I note with amusement that Dr. Khanna did not use Xbox 360s...


4 posted on 03/05/2008 11:46:28 AM PST by Yo-Yo (USAF, TAC, 12th AF, 366 TFW, 366 MG, 366 CRS, Mtn Home AFB, 1978-81)
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To: ladtx
I'd like to see a desktop, or a laptop, with these cell processors in them.

That would last me a while.

5 posted on 03/05/2008 11:46:37 AM PST by ShadowAce (Linux -- The Ultimate Windows Service Pack)
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To: ladtx

6 posted on 03/05/2008 11:47:32 AM PST by ladtx ( "Never miss a good chance to shut up." - - Will Rogers)
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To: N3WBI3; ShadowAce

Heavy Duty Linux Dude.


7 posted on 03/05/2008 11:49:18 AM PST by martin_fierro (< |:)~)
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To: ShadowAce

Very cool. Also, I learned that the plural of Sony is Sonies.


8 posted on 03/05/2008 11:52:15 AM PST by Defiant (Para votar Obama, se necessita una cabeza de nada...un cabeza de nada, para mi para ti, ay arriba..)
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To: ShadowAce

The "speed" of gravity has been established? Or is it assumed?

9 posted on 03/05/2008 12:05:19 PM PST by BlueDragon (subversive undermining of the enemy's propaganda needn't be done without joy)
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To: BlueDragon
The "speed" of gravity has been established? Or is it assumed?

I always thought that the speed of gravity was greater than the speed of light--given that the gravity from black holes capture light.

10 posted on 03/05/2008 12:07:20 PM PST by ShadowAce (Linux -- The Ultimate Windows Service Pack)
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To: ShadowAce

Unless the blackhole phenomenon is caused by another factor. There doesn’t seem to be evidence that gravity bends light.


11 posted on 03/05/2008 12:34:52 PM PST by DBCJR (What would you expect?)
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To: DBCJR
There doesn’t seem to be evidence that gravity bends light.

It's a confirmed effect.

12 posted on 03/05/2008 12:36:56 PM PST by Brian S. Fitzgerald ("We're going to drag that ship over the mountain.")
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To: DBCJR
There doesn’t seem to be evidence that gravity bends light.

Are you smoking crack? Gravitation lensing ring any bells?

13 posted on 03/05/2008 12:40:44 PM PST by Centurion2000 (su - | echo "All your " | chown -740 us ./base | kill -9 | cd / | rm -r | echo "belong to us")
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To: DBCJR
"There doesn’t seem to be evidence that gravity bends light."

Tell that to astronomers.

Like Sherlock Holmes holding a magnifying glass to unveil hidden clues, modern day astronomers used cosmic magnifying effects to reveal a planet orbiting a distant star.

This marks the first discovery of a planet around a star beyond Earth's solar system using gravitational microlensing. A star or planet can act as a cosmic lens to magnify and brighten a more distant star lined up behind it.

The gravitational field of the foreground star bends and focuses light, like a glass lens bending and focusing starlight in a telescope. Albert Einstein predicted this effect in his theory of general relativity and confirmed it with our sun.

"The real strength of microlensing is its ability to detect low-mass planets," said Dr. Ian Bond of the Institute for Astronomy in Edinburgh, Scotland, lead author of a paper appearing in the May 10 Astrophysical Journal Letters.

14 posted on 03/05/2008 12:42:18 PM PST by rednesss (Fred Thompson - 2008)
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To: ShadowAce

Nice! Although this further verifies the theory that PS3 export is a risk to nations building WMDs. It’s apparently not that difficult to network these things together and write the code to run nuclear triggers/critical mass demos.


15 posted on 03/05/2008 12:43:52 PM PST by July 4th
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To: ShadowAce

So, if these can be networked together to perform massive calculations related to gravity, something tells me that they can do the same for modeling nuclear weapons detonations. Is the PS3 banned from export to Iran or North Korea???


16 posted on 03/05/2008 12:45:02 PM PST by rednesss (Fred Thompson - 2008)
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To: DBCJR
"There doesn’t seem to be evidence that gravity bends light.

Except, of course, for the enormous amount of evidence already gathered over the last 100 years starting from the observation of Mercury to just last year's multiple photograhs of a gravitational lens that distorted the light from multiple galaxies. Oh, and the hundreds of other data points confirming it, the hundreds of photos...

Next are you going to claim that there's no evidence for the presence of water on Earth?

17 posted on 03/05/2008 12:45:08 PM PST by Republicanus_Tyrannus
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To: July 4th

Great minds..... beat me by a minute.


18 posted on 03/05/2008 12:45:51 PM PST by rednesss (Fred Thompson - 2008)
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To: Centurion2000
Are you smoking crack? Gravitation lensing ring any bells?

But is that a result of gravity altering the path of light, or is it a result of warping space ... and the light travels in a straight line with respect to warped space?

I don't know the answer ... but it seems like a there's a fairly significant distinction between the possibilities.

19 posted on 03/05/2008 12:46:01 PM PST by r9etb
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To: rednesss
Is the PS3 banned from export to Iran or North Korea???

I believe (though I am nowhere near certain), that the PS3 is manufactured in Japan. Our exports controls have no jurisdiction over it.

20 posted on 03/05/2008 12:48:01 PM PST by ShadowAce (Linux -- The Ultimate Windows Service Pack)
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To: ShadowAce; rednesss
I will correct myself here. I guess we can have a say in exporting the PS3, since it's IBM's Cell processor in use.

I honestly have no idea how the law/legalities work in a situation like this.

21 posted on 03/05/2008 12:49:55 PM PST by ShadowAce (Linux -- The Ultimate Windows Service Pack)
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To: ShadowAce
Your Tag-line cracks me up every time I see it!
22 posted on 03/05/2008 1:08:36 PM PST by 2111USMC
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To: ShadowAce
They're networked together using an inexpensive Gigabit Ethernet switch.

That's not an optimal solution for cross CPU communication. I imagine the application must run something akin to SETI@Home where discreet units of calculations are distributed across the available CPUs with the results being returned over the network. Presumably 16 PS3s isn't the maximum number that could be used for the project.

23 posted on 03/05/2008 1:23:19 PM PST by Flashman_at_the_charge (There's no 'F' in 'Conservative GOP Candidates'.)
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To: Flashman_at_the_charge
That's not an optimal solution for cross CPU communication.

Depends on your price point, I suppose. He could have used IB and a $50,000 - $80,000 IB switch.

24 posted on 03/05/2008 1:26:07 PM PST by ShadowAce (Linux -- The Ultimate Windows Service Pack)
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To: ShadowAce

bkmark. thanks.


25 posted on 03/05/2008 1:32:49 PM PST by happinesswithoutpeace (You are receiving this broadcast as a dream)
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To: ShadowAce

lol, that might be a tad ‘spendy’ for these lads.


26 posted on 03/05/2008 1:50:39 PM PST by Flashman_at_the_charge (There's no 'F' in 'Conservative GOP Candidates'.)
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To: ShadowAce
I'd like to see a desktop, or a laptop, with these cell processors in them.

It would be great as a secondary processor in place of the SIMD units (SSE, 3DNow) that's in modern chips, but it's not multi-purpose enough to be used as the main processor of a computer. Folding@Home only assigns PS3s those types of units it can handle.

27 posted on 03/05/2008 5:06:37 PM PST by antiRepublicrat
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To: Flashman_at_the_charge
Presumably 16 PS3s isn't the maximum number that could be used for the project.

Folding@Home has 32,577 PS3s doing work, many from the Free Republic team that currently ranks #50 out of 3,000 teams.

28 posted on 03/05/2008 5:10:35 PM PST by antiRepublicrat
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To: rednesss

Somehow I don’t think the question is if they’re banned from export to those countries, but rather if the countries in question allow them to be imported... could you imagine a ‘good’ Muslim’s reaction to female video game characters?

Honestly, I wouldn’t really worry - if whoever wanted to simulate a nuclear explosion, sure they could wire a bunch of PS3’s together, but they could just buy computer parts off the internet and assemble them by hand, or wire a bunch of ‘normal’ computers together, the only real difference being the cost, and something tells me that if you have the money to build nuclear weapons, you have the money not to need to be cheap about how you get your computing power.


29 posted on 03/06/2008 1:55:53 PM PST by Hyzenthlay (I aim to misbehave.)
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