Interconnected laptops as supercomputer

Thanks to Webmonk for alerting me to this curious phenomenon. What started as a mass computer linkup to search for life in outer space has turned into a tool for other kinds of astronomical study. And all those individual computers working together now constitute a supercomputer.

Combined computing power of the MilkyWay@Home project recently surpassed the world’s second fastest supercomputer

At this very moment, tens of thousands of home computers around the world are quietly working together to solve the largest and most basic mysteries of our galaxy.

Enthusiastic and inquisitive volunteers from Africa to Australia are donating the computing power of everything from decade-old desktops to sleek new netbooks to help computer scientists and astronomers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute map the shape of our Milky Way galaxy. Now, just this month, the collected computing power of these humble home computers has surpassed one petaflop, a computing speed that surpasses the world’s second fastest supercomputer.

The project, MilkyWay@Home, uses the Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing (BOINC) platform, which is widely known for the SETI@home project used to search for signs of extraterrestrial life. Today, MilkyWay@Home has outgrown even this famous project, in terms of speed, making it the fastest computing project on the BOINC platform and perhaps the second fastest public distributed computing program ever in operation (just behind Folding@home).

The interdisciplinary team behind MilkyWay@Home, which ranges from professors to undergraduates, began the formal development under the BOINC platform in July 2006 and worked tirelessly to build a volunteer base from the ground up to build its computational power.

Each user participating in the project signs up their computer and offers up a percentage of the machine’s operating power that will be dedicated to calculations related to the project. For the MilkyWay@Home project, this means that each personal computer is using data gathered about a very small section of the galaxy to map its shape, density, and movement.

In particular, computers donating processing power to MilkyWay@Home are looking at how the different dwarf galaxies that make up the larger Milky Way galaxy have been moved and stretched following their merger with the larger galaxy millions of years ago. This is done by studying each dwarf’s stellar stream. Their calculations are providing new details on the overall shape and density of dark matter in the Milky Way galaxy, which is widely unknown.

Individual cells link to form an organism; individual persons constitute a society; individual Christians join into the body of Christ. Everything in communion contributes to something bigger than the sum of its parts.

via RPI: News & Events – PCs Around the World Unite To Map the Milky Way.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Nobody’s saying anything here, so I’ll use my unparalleled powers of nitpicking to note that it’s not one “petaflop”, it’s one petaflops. Or petaFLOPS. Which means 1 x 10^15 FLoating point Operations Per Second. I know it’s awkward to write “the collected computing power of these humble home computers has surpassed one petaflops”, but them’s mildly-contrived acronyms for you.

    Also, really, nobody here wants to take a potshot at the phrase “PETA flop”? Really?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Nobody’s saying anything here, so I’ll use my unparalleled powers of nitpicking to note that it’s not one “petaflop”, it’s one petaflops. Or petaFLOPS. Which means 1 x 10^15 FLoating point Operations Per Second. I know it’s awkward to write “the collected computing power of these humble home computers has surpassed one petaflops”, but them’s mildly-contrived acronyms for you.

    Also, really, nobody here wants to take a potshot at the phrase “PETA flop”? Really?

  • http://digitollblog.com Dan

    Don’t forget that the Air Force is making a supercomputer by libking together Playstations! http://digitollblog.com/tech-news/15-air-force-builds-super-playstation
    ;) But yes, the Church really is an organism – not an organization.

  • http://digitollblog.com Dan

    Don’t forget that the Air Force is making a supercomputer by libking together Playstations! http://digitollblog.com/tech-news/15-air-force-builds-super-playstation
    ;) But yes, the Church really is an organism – not an organization.

  • WebMonk

    Eh, it’s both, since any time you get people working together in an organized fashion it is by definition an organization, but the emphasis (and strengths) of the “organism” aspects of the Church needs to be increased as the “organization” aspects have been heavily in the ascendant, at least here in the modern US.

  • WebMonk

    Eh, it’s both, since any time you get people working together in an organized fashion it is by definition an organization, but the emphasis (and strengths) of the “organism” aspects of the Church needs to be increased as the “organization” aspects have been heavily in the ascendant, at least here in the modern US.


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