A physicist has taken old PS3 consoles and made them into a supercomputer that offers 3,000 times more power than the typical desktop computer and he is using it so that he can study black holes.
[Image Courtesy of ScienceAlert]
Guarav Khanna studies black holes at the University of Massachusetts in the USA and he got old PlayStation 3 consoles and made himself a cheap supercomputer and used that computer to help him to publish several papers about black holes. Part of his research is finding gravitational waves, such as what happens when two black holes collide with each other.
To learn more about these waves he needed to get hold of a supercomputer and this had to be a computer that could crunch numbers around 10 times faster than the typical desktop computer. However supercomputers are notoriously expensive and in 2009 he took it upon himself to make his own.
A supercomputer is basically many typical computers all linked together through a network. However instead of going down the route of linking laptops he chose to use PS3s. One of the biggest benefits to this is that he could install his preferred OS on the system, which you can pick up for about US$250. Sony made a donation of 4 consoles and another 12 were purchased by the university and Khanna.
The 16 PS3s were then loaded with Linux software and they were all linked together making a processor that can calculate a lot faster than a regular one. The results of this have been published in a journal.
[Image Courtesy of US Department of Defense]
He has used the supercomputer to model the gravitational waves behaviour along with publishing papers and he has made a supercomputer that is said to be even more powerful than this one thanks to the US Department of Defense taking his idea after hearing about it and making their own version. They then donated another 176 PS3 consoles and the supercomputer is said to have the power of more than 3,000 desktop computers. The supercomputer is said to have cost around $75,000 which is cheap for such a device.
Khanna is going to work on making a supercomputer from graphics cards out of PCs and these are low cost but are said to have the power of 20 PS3 consoles.