Thursday, January 29, 2009

Playstation Physics

Lior Burko, a physicist at of the University of Alabama, wanted to run computer simulations of the vibrations in space caused by a black hole. The problem was that the simulations need a supercomputer, and the cost is about $5K per simulation.

The solution? Some guy at the University of Massachusetts networked 16 Playstation 3's together to create something the PS3 Gravity Grid. Yes, Playstation 3, the video game console. No, I am not making this up. Apparently, it's very good at simulations that require massive amounts of computations, but only a little bit of RAM. It cost about $6K total to build, and can run unlimited simulations.

So, using the PS3 Gravity Grid, Professor Burko was able to simulate how long a black hole vibrates after it forms. He likens the vibrations of a black hole to the ringing of a bell.

The whole article is here, on

An interview with the guy who built it is here.

Imagine what they could do with a bunch of Wii's.


Eric Shonkwiler said...

I'm relatively certain they use PS3s for computations on other projects. I seem to recall someone saying they were using all PS3s that were turned on and hooked up to the internet (not playing a game) for something or other. Quick search reveals:

Gordo said...

The PS3 CPU kicks ass for the money. We talked about doing this at work for one of the guys involved in the Millenium Simulation Project, but another University made him an offer he couldn't refuse and he left.

There are similar projects underway using XBox's and at least one tryign to figure out how do cluster XBox 360's.

Victoria Gothic said...

That's pretty awesome. But what about the black hole vibrations? Are they what causes atoms to clash and begin the chain of events that is infinite cause and effect in an elliptical universe?

Clowncar said...

Eric, whoda thunkit? I've never heard of this before. you're right, apparently it's rather common.

Gordo, that Millenium Simulation Project thing is pretty cool. thanks for the link.

No, Vic, gravity waves and black hole vibrations are merely tiny ripples in a very large pond.