Supercomputer Installed at RIT Among the World’s Fastest

Jul 12, 2005

One of the fastest supercomputers in the world and the first ever designed specifically to study the evolution of star clusters and galaxies is now in operation at Rochester Institute of Technology.
The new computer, built by David Merritt, professor of physics in RIT’s College of Science, uses a novel architecture to reach speeds much higher than that of standard supercomputers of comparable size.

Known as gravitySimulator, the computer is designed to solve the “gravitational N-body problem”. It simulates how a galaxy evolves as the stars move about each other in response to their own gravity. This problem is computationally demanding because there are so many interactions to calculate requiring a tremendous amount of computer time. As a result, standard supercomputers can only carry out such calculations with thousands of stars at a time.

The new computer achieves much greater performance by incorporating special accelerator boards, called GRAPEs or Gravity Pipelines, into a standard Beowulf-like cluster. The gravitySimulator, which is one of only two machines of its kind in the world, achieves a top speed of 4 Teraflops, or four trillion calculations per second, making it one of the 100 fastest computers in the world, and it can handle up to 4 million stars at once. The computer cost over $500,000 to construct and was funded by RIT, the National Science Foundation, and NASA.

Since gravitySimulator was installed in the spring, Merritt and his associates have been using it to study the binary black hole problem- what happens when two galaxies collide and their central, supermassive black holes form a bound pair.

“Eventually the two black holes are expected to merge into a single, larger black hole,” Merritt says. “But before that happens, they interact with the stars around them, ejecting some and swallowing others. We think we see the imprints of this process in nearby galaxies, but so far no one has carried out simulations with high enough precision to test the theory.”

Merritt and his team will also use gravitySimulator to study the dynamics of the central Milky Way Galaxy in order to understand the origin of our own black hole.

Merritt sees the gravitySimulator as an important example of RIT’s development as a major scientific research institute. “Our unique combination of in-class instruction, experiential learning and research will be a major asset in the continued development of astrophysics and other research disciplines here at RIT,” Merritt says. “The gravitySimulator is the perfect example of the cutting edge work we are already doing and will be a major stepping stone for the development of future scientific research.”

Source: Rochester Institute of Technology

Explore further: Some British Airways frequent flier accounts miles breached

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Dairy farms asked to consider breeding no-horn cows

9 hours ago

Food manufacturers and restaurants are taking the dairy industry by the horns on an animal welfare issue that's long bothered activists but is little known to consumers: the painful removal of budding horn ...

DARPA seeks new positioning, navigation, timing solutions

15 hours ago

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), writing about GPS, said: "The military relies heavily on the Global Positioning System (GPS) for positioning, navigation, and timing (PNT), but GPS access is easily blocked by methods such as jamming. In addition, many environments in which our mil ...

Recommended for you

Festo has BionicANTs communicating by the rules for tasks

Mar 27, 2015

Germany-based automation company Festo, focused on technologies for tasks, turns to nature for inspiration, trying to take the cues from how nature performs tasks so efficiently. "Whether it's energy efficiency, ...

Intel in talks with Altera on tie-up

Mar 27, 2015

US tech giant Intel is in talks with rival Altera on a tie-up to broaden the chipmaker's product line amid growth in Internet-connected devices, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday.

Amazon says FAA drone approval already obsolete

Mar 27, 2015

The approval federal aviation officials gave Amazon.com last week to test a specific drone design outdoors is already outdated, the company's top policy executive said Tuesday in written testimony to a Senate subcommittee.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.