Leicester's Complexity computer stares into black holes

Complexity is specially designed to run detailed Astrophysics simulations

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A University of Leicester supercomputer may have helped unlock a secret about the birth of stars.

The £2m Complexity machine has been working with four others across England to examine the physical forces which build galaxies.

Researchers said they now believe energy from black holes can help, as well as inhibit, the creation of stars.

The first results of the project, called DiRAC, were discussed at a conference hosted by the university.

Complexity has a rated speed of more than 95 teraflops, which means it which can handle 95 trillion operations a second.

Flops

  • Stands for FLoating-point Operations Per Second
  • Used as a measure of performance for complex computers
  • Average domestic computer runs at 4-7 gigaflops (4-7 billion operations per second)
  • Leicester's Complexity runs at 95 teraflops (95 trillion operations a second)
  • The world's biggest computer, China's Tianhe-2 is expected to run at 33.86 petaflops (33.86 quadrillion operations per second)

Dr Mark Wilkinson, a member of the Theoretical Astrophysics Group at the University of Leicester, national co-chair of DiRAC and the organiser of DiRAC Day 2013, said: "We have shown what this sort of joint project can achieve, putting the UK at the forefront of Astrophysics.

"Complexity was designed with this task in mind, allowing the maximum communication between chips to make sure simulations are as accurate as possible."

PhD student Martin Bourne presented Leicester's findings to the conference.

He explained: "Most galaxies have a supermassive black hole in their centre and these draw in a lot of material due to their huge gravitational pull.

"But this consuming of gases releases energy into the rest of the galaxy and it had been thought this energy stripped the galaxy of the gases needed to produce stars.

"But our calculations show that denser, colder gases are actually being concentrated by this energy and making star formation more likely."

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