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This physicist has built a supercomputer from old PlayStations

Well next time if you start thinking about upgrading your gaming console for the up-to-date model or for a better one, there may be a fantastic opportunity than just throwing the old gaming console away, you can use the old gaming console for science instead. Guarav Khanna, a black hole physicist currently at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth in the United States, has succeeded to construct a powerful and tremendously cheap supercomputer using an old PlayStation 3s (PS3s), and he’s also used his supercomputer made from an old PlayStation 3s (PS3s) to publish numerous papers on black holes. His study centers on detecting gravitational waves, which are bends in space-time that flow out from a powerful astrophysical occurrence, for instance two black holes colliding. They were first projected by Einstein’s famous theory of general relativity, but no one has yet been able to detect them.

In order to work out further about these mysterious waves, Khanna required a supercomputer-- a computer system that can crunch numbers no less than 10 times better than an ordinary computer -- to model what take place when two black holes collide, but unluckily supercomputers are getting more and more expensive. So in 2009, Khanna decided to create his own instead, as he told Laura Parker from the New York Times. Khanna told Parker “Science has become expensive. There’s simply not that much money going around, either at the university or the federal level. Supercomputing allows scientists to make up for the resources they don’t have.” In theory, a supercomputer essentially includes connecting many ordinary computers together via a network. But as an alternative of using ordinary laptops, Khanna decided to go for an inexpensive choice, and connected PS3s. Their key advantage was that they permit users to install their chosen operating system on the console, and they sell it for around US$250.

To aid with his study, Sony gave four consoles to the experimentation, and Khanna and the university bought additional 12. All 16 were then installed with Linux and connected over the Internet - the outcome was a processor that could accelerate calculations by a factor of nearly 10 compared to a normal computer. He distributed the outcomes of the make-shift supercomputer in the paper Parallel and Distributed Computing Systems in 2009.

According to Parker, Khanna  used that supercomputer to model the behavior of gravitational waves and circulate numerous papers on the phenomenon, but since then he's now prepared an even more powerful model. In 2010, the US Air Force Research Laboratory in New York learned about Khanna’s PS3 supercomputer, and tried to construct their own out of 1,760 consoles, as visualized below, in order to help with radar image observation.
US Department of Defense

As a thanks, the US Department of Defense gave 176 extra PS3s to Khanna and his group. They now work with their supercomputer in a cooled shipping container, which was meant to carry milk. This computer is as powerful as 3,000 typical desktop computers, and only budget around US$75,000 to create -- an incredibly inexpensive amount for a supercomputer. Though PS3s have their limits -- the memory is much minor than customary supercomputers, for instance -- their supercomputer is continuing to grow in power and has assisted not only Khanna with his study, but many other researchers around the university. The group will add additional 220 PS3s to the system by 2015.

The next task Khanna desires to work on is making a supercomputer out of PC graphics cards, which are similarly low-cost but as powerful as about 20 PS3 syatems.

1 comment

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