The PS3 is no stranger to science. [email protected] was one of the first applications designed to take advantage of the PS3’s powerful cell processor for medical purposes. Now, scientists have used the PS3 to solve one of the many mysteries surrounding black holes.
Scientists at the University of Alabama and the University of Massachusetts created a cluster of 16 PS3s to run research on the vibration of black holes. Though the PS3 has been used to assist research in the past, this experiment is the first one done exclusively on the console. While supercomputers can be rented out, the cost of doing so is astronomical, according to Dr. Lior Burko, professor at UA: “If we had rented computing time from a supercomputer center it would have cost us about $5,000 to run our simulation one time. For this project we ran our simulation several dozens of times to test different parameters and circumstances, so you can see how much that would have cost us.” The PS3 cluster, on the other hand, only cost $6,000 to build, and allowed scientists to run as many simulations as they needed for no additional cost.
For those interested in the research itself, this experiment resolved a dispute over what speed black holes stop vibrating. This vibration occurs when a black hole first forms, or when it swallows up matter. Burko compared this vibration to that of a bell, except with gravitational waves instead of sound waves. The experiment used the PS3 cluster to simulate a vibrating black hole and then found out how long it took to return to its “quiet” state.
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