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PlayStation for Science

Instead of running Grand Theft Auto or Call of Duty, PlayStation 3 consoles in Gaurav Khanna's hands at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth are put to work to model what happens when black holes collide, the New York Times reports.

By linking these consoles and their processing power together, Khanna has created his own supercomputer, using consoles that cost $250 to $300 retail.

Originally, he linked up 16 consoles — Sony donated four consoles toward the experiment, UMass-Dartmouth bought eight, and Khanna bought four. He reported in a journal article that his PS3 supercomputer sped up his calculations by about 10 fold.

This, the Times adds, caught the attention of a group at the Air Force Research Laboratory and the teams joined forces to create an even bigger PS3-powered supercomputer with the computational power of nearly 3,000 laptop or desktop processors at a cost of about $75,000.

But, the Times points out that the consoles are limited by their memory and that the next supercomputer Khanna's team will build will likely be based on PC graphics cards

"It won't work for everything, but it will certainly cover a large set of scientific and engineering applications, especially if we keep improving on it," Khanna says.

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