PlayStation3 Array Not Exactly Rocket Science

It's astrophysics, not rocket science, actually. Frustrated with the complexity and expense of running computations on big arrays of supercomputers, Dr. Gaurav Khanna of the University of Massachusetts in Dartmouth has assembled 8 Playstation 3s into a cluster, loaded it up with Linux, and used it to perform massive calculations seeking to prove the existence of so-called gravity waves. Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity postulates that such waves exist, but it's never been proven.

He also says that the console's Cell processor, co-developed by Sony, IBM and Toshiba, can deliver massive amounts of power, comparable even to that of a supercomputer -- if you know how to optimize code and have a few extra consoles lying around that you can string together.

"The PS3/Linux combination offers a very attractive cost-performance solution whether the PS3s are distributed ... or clustered together (like Khanna's), says Sony's senior development manager of research and development, Noam Rimon.

According to Rimon, the Cell processor was designed as a parallel processing device, so he's not all that surprised the research community has embraced it. "It has a general purpose processor, as well as eight additional processing cores, each of which has two processing pipelines and can process multiple numbers, all at the same time," Rimon says.

What a fantastic piece of equipment a PlayStation3 is. It's a shame no one wants to play games on it.