West Virginia University assistant professor Zachariah Etienne is launching “a global volunteer computing effort” analyzing gravitational waves from colliding black holes, reports Phys.org:
“As our gravitational wave detectors become more sensitive, we’re going to need to greatly expand our efforts to understand all of the information encoded in gravitational waves from colliding binary black holes,” Etienne said. “We are turning to the general public to help with these efforts, which involve generating unprecedented numbers of self-consistent simulations of these extremely energetic collisions. This will truly be an inclusive effort, and we especially hope to inspire the next generation of scientists in this growing field of gravitational wave astrophysics.”
His team — and the scientific community in general — needs computing capacity to run the simulations required to cover all possibilities related to the properties and other information contained in gravitational waves. “Each desktop computer will be able to perform a single simulation of colliding black holes,” said Etienne. By seeking public involvement through use of vast numbers of personal desktop computers, Etienne and others hope to dramatically increase the throughput of the theoretical gravitational wave predictions needed to extract information from observations of the collisions.
Etienne and his team are building a website with downloadable software based on the same Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing, or BOINC, system used for the SETI@Home project and other scientific applications. The free middleware system is designed to help harness the processing power of thousands of personal computers across the globe. The West Virginia team has named their project BlackHoles@Home and expects to have it up and running later this year.
They have already established a website where the public can begin learning more about the effort.
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