The discovery of gravitational waves, announced by an international team of scientists, including Cardiff University’s Gravitational Physics Group, was verified using simulations of black-hole collisions produced on a Bull supercomputer.
The discovery is being considered one of the biggest breakthroughs in physics for the last 100 years, as these tiny ripples in space-time offer new insights into theoretical physics and provide scientists with new avenues to explore the universe.
Gravitational waves interact very weakly with particles so they require incredibly sensitive equipment to detect them which is why technological advances have been so important uncovering the existence of gravitational waves.
Stephen Fairhurst, director of postgraduate research studies at Cardiff University, said: ‘To be able to make breakthrough discoveries of this nature we need the power of the best technology behind us. The supercomputer is designed to enable the most ambitious programs and gives our scientists and researchers the opportunity to become industry leading.
Bull team of technology experts and Cardiff University’s Advanced Research Computing Group (ARCCA) were available to us throughout the project to make sure we were able to get the highest performance possible from the supercomputer so that we could make this once in a generation breakthrough.”
The supercomputer was used to comb through extensive data that had been gathered by more than 1,000 scientists and researchers involved in the project. The Cardiff University team also used the supercomputer to conduct simulations of black-hole collisions to produce theoretical models, confirming the signals detected by the US-based LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory) Project were in fact gravitational waves.
Bull is a Europe-based company that specialises in designing, building and operating some of the worlds’ largest supercomputers. Andy Grant, senior vice president for big data and security at Bull, now the technology division of Atos, said: “Technology is a huge enabler of science and research and it’s incredible for our technology to have played a part in such an important scientific discovery.”
Grant also commented on the success of the collaboration between Bull and Cardiff University, He said: “It is particularly pleasing that researchers from Cardiff University worked extensively with the Bull Centre for Excellence in Parallel Programming to optimize the performance of their applications for the supercomputer.”