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Computing Revolution Creating Desktop Supercomputers

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University of Western Australia (UWA) Ph.D. candidate Chris Harris is investigating the use of graphics processing units (GPUs) in radio astronomy data processing. Harris says the GPUs typically used in desktop computers could provide the processing backbone for data-intensive applications running on supercomputers. "If you're trying to get [an] image of the sky using an interferometer, you're using multiple telescopes to get a better image," he says. "What that means is that you need to take those separate signals and combine them to form an image, and there's a great deal of computation involved in that."

Harris says that GPUs are designed to handle numerous, small processing tasks. "My research shows that when I use a GPU with a parallel correlation algorithm, it's 10 to a hundred times faster," he says. The GPU cards in a computer are already catching up to traditional, room-sized supercomputers.

UWA professor Karen Haines says the ability to quickly process data makes GPUs invaluable to projects such as the Square Kilometre Array astronomy project, which has to process radio astronomy data from multiple telescopes, a task that requires a massive number of calculations. "The problem is that scientists go to the big computers to do their number crunching but then they use a different computer to look at their results," Haines says. "GPUs are letting us figure out not only how to process the data in real time, but how to let us look at the data while it is processing rather than at just the end."

From ScienceAlert (Australia)
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