Got A Playstation 3? Consider Donating Its Computing Capacity To Biomed Research

January 11, 2008 at 10:51 pm Leave a comment

Got a Playstation 3? Know somebody who has one? Then you can help biomedical research by donating your machine’s computing capacity to scientific research when you’re not playing.

How? It’s as easy as inserting a program that you’ve downloaded from a website by the scientists on a 1 GB pen drive and inserting the pen drive into your console and restarting it. That’s what the people say who request this little favor of you, the Research Unit on Biomedical Informatics (GRIB) at the Instituto Municipal de Investigación Médica (IMIM) and the Universidad Pompeu Fabra (UPF) in Barcelona, Spain.

What happens when you do this, is that you get connected to a platform that these scientists have created soon after the launch of the PS 3. Hooking up groups of over PS3 users tends to create a natural super computational capacity. This is because the PS 3, as one of a few commercial available devices, uses a particularly powerful processor Cell.

“The combined computational force of all the PS3s reaches the features of a powerful supercomputer, given that at this time there are 3 million PS3s in the world,” explains Gianni De Fabritiis, researcher at the Research Unit on Biomedical Informatics (GRIB) at the IMIM-UPF. The researcher added that “the calculation capacity of 100 consoles would equal thousands of conventional computers”.

The researchers need a bunch of PS 3’s to provide them with calculation capacity that is of peta flop calibre simply to shorten the calculation time that their own computers take over simulating the behaviour of microscopic biomolecules. Similar initiatives are also underway by Stanford University researchers who are in need of supercomputing capacity to research alzheimers and other diseases.

Fabritiis claims that simulations calculations are of enormous difficulty when designing algorithms and architecture analysis, even for the most modern computers.

But at the moment, computing power is incremental in biomedical research because elemental physics behind enzymatic reactions, the tertiary structure of proteins or the conductivity of ions through biological membranes, among many other biological processes, is just beginning to be understood.

“The capacity to calculate is essential to resolving the operation of high-complexity biological systems”, Fabritiis says. He and his team have created a revolutionary computational initiative to which PS 3 players can hook up. It’s parked at www.ps3grid.net. It is a platform within the PS3GRID project, which allows everyone that participates to put their videogame console at the disposal of high-level international science.

”In only a few seconds using a 1 GB pen drive, we can load Linux Live operating system in the PS 3 and the PS3GRID software”, the researchers claim. They say that molecular calculations will be carried out 16 times faster than with a normal PC as a result. People that participate can return to the normal Playstation 3 game activity by simply restarting their console.

At the moment some 130 PS 3 gamers are hooked up to the site. Anyone interested in donating part of the computational time of their Playstation 3 to science can simply download the program onto a 1 GB or more pen drive from the website and stick it into their PS 3 machine.

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