Thursday, October 18, 2007

Supercomputing Child's Play

What would you say if I told you that supercomputing is an everyday experience for most children? You'd scoff wouldn't you? Well, any child who plays with a Sony PlayStation 3 game console is actually playing with a very high end workstation or supercomputing node all for the cheap sum of $600. The astrophysicist in question claims that one PS3 is equivalent to 25 supercomputing nodes due to the Cell processor. He is using a port of Yellow Dog Linux developed by Terra Soft.The link I provided should enable at least a knowledgeable user to install the Terra Soft YDL onto a PS3. You'll also need a USB keyboard, mouse and thumb drive for the installation. The PS3 could be a decent computing platform for science and engineering students who need a decent high performance workstation for a fraction of the $1200-4000 price tag you'd normally expect and it would still play games as well.

NOTE: Sony just dropped the price $100.00, so now the PS3 is $500 for the high end model.



Your post reminds me that the unintended possibilities of DIY computing may be nasty.

I hope these DIY supercomputers (or IBM Blues etc) are not successsfully modified by the Iranians to model nuclear explosions. It could make the nuclear development job all the more easy.


Why DIY, when Khan or the North Koreans might sell you the designs for a fraction of the costs? Alternatively, you could see if the Chinese might have stolen US designs you could use, or employ a Russian programmer to custom design a trojan and selectively spam US and European military addresses and see what you could glean that way. But yeah, at some point you'll need a couple of physicists and engineers to assemble the thing if you've acquired the weapons grade material. They'll need to do some computations to make sure their designs work. Keep in mind though that they built the first nukes by hand using slide rules, paper and pencil in 1944. A lot of it will come down to timing and geometry once you have the fissile material.

I should say 1944-45, but building and assembling the bomb didn't take that long (less than 6 months). The hard part was refining enough pure material to build it. They had two designs at the time of the first test. One design was dropped on Hiroshima, and the other was dropped on Nagasaki. Both worked the first time.
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