Every gaming enthusiast knows that the Playstation 3 is a console of many perks. Enjoy high quality, intense gameplay. Leisurely browse the internet. Binge watch the latest season of your favorite tv show. The console even doubles as an HD BluRay player! And yet, the awesomeness of the PS3 doesn't stop there!
Dr. Gaurav Khanna from the University of Massachusetts has been able to transform the gaming staple into the world's first affordable super computer. As a black hole physicist and computer science genius, Khanna's current research focuses on the observation of gravitational waves left in the wake of a black hole collision.
Sounds pretty complicated, huh? Well, that's because it is! So complicated, in fact, that normal desk top computers simply cannot handle the complex calculations needed to simulate the collisions. One supercomputer on its own has 10 times the processing performance power of the average desktop computer.
The problem is that the supercomputers necessary to recreate the astrophysical phenomenon cost nearly unfathomable amounts of money (about $100 to $250 million on design and assembly and about $6 to $7 million in annual energy costs, according to Time). So why not just build one out of PS3 consoles, which have excellent processors and only cost $250 to $300 a pop? Well that's exactly what Dr. Gaurav Khanna decided to do!
When his project first started in 2007, Khanna contacted Sony Computer Entertainment America in hopes of gaining it as an ally in his scientific endeavor. After Sony donated four PS3s, the university paid for eight consoles, and Khanna bought four more out of pocket, the physicist then booted up his brand new supercomputer system using the Linux operating system.
Using his 16 console supercomputer, Khana published a 2009 article in the journal of Classical and Quantum Gravity concerning gravitational waves resulting from rotating black holes. The PS3 powered supercomputer was so ground breaking, in fact, that the US Air Force has already created their own PS3 computer based off of Khanna's research "capable of processing the complex computation required to create a detailed image of an entire city from radar data."
Check out what physics professor Lior Burko of Georgia Gwinnett College had to say of Khana's scientific break through:
Dr. Khana was able to combine his two fields of expertise, namely general relativity and computer science, to invent something new that allowed for not just a neat new machine, but also scientific progress that otherwise might have taken many more years to achieve
Unfortunately, every seemingly good thing has its downside. Although Sony's PS3 console runs on a powerful processor, it is pretty limited when it comes to memory. In other words, the memory limitation restricts scientists from large-scale calculations. Khanna's next step will, therefore, probably be switching the gaming consoles for more memory efficient PC graphic cards, which perform at a rate equivalent to 20 PS3 consoles.
Wow! Who knew you could do so much with something as seemingly ordinary as a Playstation 3! I wonder what other scientific wonders can be created with the console? Hmmm...please excuse me while I go all Tony Stark on my PS3 now...
Have you been able to create something awesome out of a seemingly normal object?