Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Helping science whilst playing videogames

(another article from the December issue of el·lipse)

Researchers at the Research Unit on Biomedical Informatics (GRIB) at the IMIM and the UPF have invented a surprising and revolutionary computational initiative, the platform. This will allow those interested in participating to put their own videogame console at the disposal of high-level international science.

In only a few seconds, users can download the program from the website onto a 1 GB pen drive and insert it into their Playstation 3 (PS3). The PS3 will then be connected to the PS3GRID server, which will use the powerful Cell processor included in the new console to make scientific calculations. To go back to a videogame, you just need to restart the PS3.
Thanks to the Cell processor, molecular calculations will be carried out 16 times faster than with a normal PC. According to Fabritiis, "the combined computational force of all the PS3s reaches the features of a powerful supercomputer, given that there are now 3 million PS3s in the world". And this big calculation capacity is essential for the simulation of the behaviour of microscopic biomolecules, which needs the designing of complex algorithms.

The project is already under way and at the moment there are some 130 machines connected, all of which are located outside Spain. But more are needed in order to increase the calculation capacity. This initiative will allow society to be a participant in the exciting world of basic biomedical research.

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