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NASA Achieves Breakthrough Black Hole Simulation

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 8 years ago | from the pretty-pictures dept.

281

DoctorBit writes "NASA scientists have achieved a breakthrough in simulating the merging of two same-size non-spinning black holes based on a new translation of Einstein's general relativity equations. The scientists accomplished the feat by using some brand-new tensor calculus translations on the Linux-running, 10,240 Itanium processor SGI Altix Columbia supercomputer. These are reportedly the largest astrophysical calculations ever performed on a NASA supercomputer. According to NASA's Chief Scientist, "Now when we observe a black hole merger with LIGO or LISA, we can test Einstein's theory and see whether or not he was right.""

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281 comments

IP violation (5, Funny)

Douglas Simmons (628988) | more than 8 years ago | (#15157491)

From the article: "when two massive black holes merge, all of space jiggles like a bowl of Jell-O"

Wouldn't Kraft Foods have prior art on this?

Re:IP violation (1)

iminplaya (723125) | more than 8 years ago | (#15157915)

They probably meant Jelly [blackdog.net] .

Re:IP violation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15157922)

From the article: "when two massive black holes merge, all of space jiggles like a bowl of Jell-O"

Only if they have prior art on my wife's jigglers..

Yes. (5, Funny)

Vandilizer (201798) | more than 8 years ago | (#15157937)



And I whole heartily encourage all patent and IP lawyers to go to those black holes and ether Subpoena them or deliver a notice of possible infringement.

This should solve all lot of problem here on earth as well, if we can get them to all go.

Unless that is the Black hole decides to show up for its court date.

Finally.... (3, Funny)

smaerd (954708) | more than 8 years ago | (#15157495)

....a machine that can tell me where my lost left socks have gone!

Re:Finally.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15157892)

Machine, eh? Wiley already knew... http://www.ucomics.com/nonsequitur/ [ucomics.com]

Re:Finally.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15158049)

also explain why my socks never disappear... all mine are right-foot socks. weird.

Supersucker (0)

ShadowNetworks (915967) | more than 8 years ago | (#15157502)

You apparently use a supercomputer to generate a problem to a hole that sucks everything in. To me, this seems contradictory. But it's a huge achievement, go NASA!

Re:Supersucker (2, Funny)

Aqua_boy17 (962670) | more than 8 years ago | (#15157972)

"You apparently use a supercomputer to generate a problem to a hole that sucks everything in."

I really think the goatse guy could claim prior art on this.

Headline should read: (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15157508)

"Itanium chips actually get used"

NASA Achieves Breakthrough Black Hole Simulation (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15157514)

Are we getting to mars yet? :)

First post

I bet... (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15157516)

at least two of the posts above this one contain goatse.cx jokes...

Re:I bet... (1)

JollyFinn (267972) | more than 8 years ago | (#15157570)

What about merger of the Giver and the hole of Anonymous Coward?

Re:I bet... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15157691)

What about merger of the Giver and the hole of Anonymous Coward?

Surely you don't mean goatse - I think they'd need more computer power to properly calculate a black hole of that magnitude. ::shudder::

How about something more useful? (5, Funny)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | more than 8 years ago | (#15157527)

How about something more useful to everyday life?

The catastrophic results of merging Microsoft and Linux?

The hilarious results of merging Intel and AMD.

The unexpected results of merging a spinning Steve Jobs (Intel is Evil/Intel is the best, brightest, future of Apple) and the O'Reilly No-Spin Zone.

Those I'd buy tickets for.

They did do something useful (1, Funny)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 8 years ago | (#15157624)

According to TFA The scientists accomplished the feat by using some brand-new tensor calculus translations on the Linux-running, 10,240 Itanium processor SGI Altix Columbia supercomputer.

They finally managed to use up all of those Itanium processors hanging about in storage. Well done!

Re:How about something more useful? (1)

AnalystX (633807) | more than 8 years ago | (#15157772)

Saying Intel is inferior one decade and superior the next isn't exactly spin. A lot actually changes in that much time. There were several years leading up to the switch that Steve didn't say anything positive about AIM architecture.

Put this in the New York Times! (1)

openfrog (897716) | more than 8 years ago | (#15157947)

From the article: Black holes alter spacetime. Therein lies the difficulty in creating black hole models: Space and time shift; density becomes infinite and time can come to a standstill. Such variables cause computer simulations to crash.

But they succeeded with Linux. There you have it, your collision between Microsoft and Linux. Let's buy a full page in the New York Times and title it with something like: Light year ahead of Windows; don't try this at home.

I think what we really want to know is... (5, Funny)

Xest (935314) | more than 8 years ago | (#15157536)

What kind of framerate do you get on that machine when playing Half-Life 2?

I know you're being funny but (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15157588)

This wouldn't be at all comparable to a home machine designed to play HL2.

You wouldn't use a semi truck in a NASCAR race, and you wouldn't use a NASCAR vehicle to haul large boxes. They just aren't comparable.

Meh (3, Informative)

ichigo 2.0 (900288) | more than 8 years ago | (#15158044)

HL2 is singlethreaded so the performance would be the same as on one Itanium. Also x86 code has to be emulated on Itaniums = slow. Oh and no GPU which means pixel/vertex shaders would have to run on software. Educated guess: 0.1 fps.

If Einstein had had those supercomputers ... (4, Funny)

rewinn (647614) | more than 8 years ago | (#15157541)

...would he have developed General Relativity sooner, or just played WarCraft?

Re:If Einstein had had those supercomputers ... (1)

creimer (824291) | more than 8 years ago | (#15157577)

Wouldn't "Space War" (the black hole version) be more appropriate?

Re:If Einstein had had those supercomputers ... (1)

zackeller (653801) | more than 8 years ago | (#15157595)

That's silly. Everyone knows Warcraft won't run on an Itanium.

Re:If Einstein had had those supercomputers ... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15157608)

I know it is OT, but although this is a funny comment, I have a friend who just lost his job because he was calling in sick too much for the sake of WoW.

That game is like crack to many people.

Re:If Einstein had had those supercomputers ... (2, Insightful)

Tenareth (17013) | more than 8 years ago | (#15157722)

People with addictive personalities will find something to be addicted to.

It is important to have self-awareness that this is an issue and put hard-line limits on things, including drinking or playing a game. "I will only play 3 hours a day" or "I will stop playing at midnight". Hard stops are usually easier to deal with than "I won't play too much" as that leaves too much open for interpretation, which is bad if you have an addictive personality.

The game isn't the issue.

Re:If Einstein had had those supercomputers ... (1)

bill_kress (99356) | more than 8 years ago | (#15158003)

It is important to have self-awareness that this is an issue and put hard-line limits on things...

Although I completely agree with you, you left out one point. While adults are often able to make the kind of analysis that you are suggesting, children generally are not.

This is not a perfect world and if someone can take advantage of the imperfections by selling Tobacco, Alcohol, Games, Christianity and drugs to children who are unprepared to recognize their addictive and dangerous effects, they will. Parents are often not in the position to recognize these problems and help their children learn to handle them--just another aspect of this imperfect world.

So although your premise is correct, I have to say that if WOW had been available when I was a kid I would probably be making half what I am now and I'd most likely be miserable.

I'm nervous about what is happening right now to the programmers of the future...

There are two kinds of physicist (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15157645)

There are experimenters. The guys who ran the simulation were experimenters.
There are theoreticians. Einstein was a theoretician. He asked relatively simple questions and followed the logical consequences. I suspect that having to use a computer would have been a giant distraction and might have delayed or prevented the theory of relativity.

Re:There are two kinds of physicist (1)

davidoff404 (764733) | more than 8 years ago | (#15157879)

There are experimenters. The guys who ran the simulation were experimenters.

Nope. The guys who run these simulations are all theoretical physicists and/or mathematicians. The various forms of Einstein's equations suitable for simulation on a computer are all based around extremely tricky systems of elliptic or hyperbolic partial differential equations. The guys who actually ran the simulations were tech monkeys at Goddard. The guys who designed and developed the code and the mathematical analysis were all theorists.

Re:If Einstein had had those supercomputers ... (1)

vertinox (846076) | more than 8 years ago | (#15157718)

..would he have developed General Relativity sooner, or just played WarCraft?

Oh come on! This is Einstein we are talking about

He'd be playing "Red Alert: Command and Conquer" ;)

Are there non-spinning black holes? (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15157545)

Based on observations, what percentage of black holes are non-spinning vs spinning?

Re:Are there non-spinning black holes? (5, Informative)

hunterx11 (778171) | more than 8 years ago | (#15157615)

"Rotating black holes are thought to be formed in the gravitational collapse of a massive rotating star or from the collapse of a collection of stars with an average non-zero angular momentum. Most stars rotate and therefore it is expected that most black holes in nature are rotating black holes." Rotating black hole - Wikipedia [wikipedia.org]

Re:Are there non-spinning black holes? (5, Informative)

loudambiance (935806) | more than 8 years ago | (#15157900)

According to theory, the event horizon of a black hole that is not spinning is spherical, and its singularity is (informally speaking) a single point. If the black hole carries angular momentum (inherited from a star that is spinning at the time of its collapse), it begins to drag space-time surrounding the event horizon in an effect known as frame-dragging. This spinning area surrounding the event horizon is called the ergosphere and has an ellipsoidal shape. Since the ergosphere is located outside the event horizon, objects can exist within the ergosphere without falling into the hole. However, because space-time itself is moving in the ergosphere, it is impossible for objects to remain in a fixed position. Objects grazing the ergosphere could in some circumstances be catapulted outwards at great speed, extracting energy (and angular momentum) from the hole, hence the name ergosphere ("sphere of work") because it is capable of doing work. Once all the angular momentum is extracted from a spinning black hole, what do you think happens, it stops spinning.

Re:Are there non-spinning black holes? (1)

Maximum Prophet (716608) | more than 8 years ago | (#15158046)

Hmm, this begs the question. Do the simulations for a non-spinning black hole approximate a very slowly spinning BH, or is it a step function, spinning vs. non-spinning? Since just about everything in the universe has some angular momentum, you'd think all BH'es would be spinning with the older ones just doing it very slowly.

Another question would be: Can the ergosphere apply energy to the BH making it spin faster? I.E. If a body crashes into the ergosphere almost grazing, but is captured, does it transfer energy to it? If this is the case, almost no BH in nature would be completely non-spinning.

Re:Are there non-spinning black holes? (3, Informative)

FuzzyDaddy (584528) | more than 8 years ago | (#15157751)

The reason for doing a non-spinning black hole is that it's an easier calculation to make. Once they have some experience with this simulator I'm sure they will move on to spinning black holes.

Re:Are there non-spinning black holes? (1)

mapkinase (958129) | more than 8 years ago | (#15157849)

This reminds me of an old joke about a model of the horse by the physicist described as "completely black spherical horse in vacuum".

OFFTOPIC: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mai (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15157550)

would somebody please correct the errors of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page [wikipedia.org] . I have no idea of how to edit the main page.

Sorry for being offtopic here.

Non-spinning black holes?! (1)

creimer (824291) | more than 8 years ago | (#15157551)

... non-spinning black holes ...

Must've been playing Nowhere Man [lyricsfreak.com] in the background when they came up with this idea.

And if Einstein is wrong... (4, Funny)

Rik Sweeney (471717) | more than 8 years ago | (#15157605)

Now when we observe a black hole merger with LIGO or LISA, we can test Einstein's theory and see whether or not he was right.

And if he's wrong then all the scientists can make "loser" signs at him on their foreheads...

translate article (2, Funny)

bigwavejas (678602) | more than 8 years ago | (#15157614)

anyone know if google has a science-nerd-jargon translator?

Are they really testing what they think? (5, Insightful)

HiddenL (967659) | more than 8 years ago | (#15157619)

Now when we observe a black hole merger with LIGO or LISA, we can test Einstein's theory and see whether or not he was right.
More likely: Whether or not the equations used are a correct approximation for Einstein's equations.

And even more likely: Whether or not the computers performed the calculations correctly (the chips are made from Intel, and we all know the history of Intel screwing up floating point math)

Re:Are they really testing what they think? (1)

thePig (964303) | more than 8 years ago | (#15157764)

Also, how can they even test the same?
For testing you need to compare the data from the computer o/p with the real life situations.

Now, since gravitational waves havent been spotted yet, there is no (straightforward) way of making sure whether these details match too.

But these guys are genuises and would have thought about ways of doing it already, most prolly.

Re:Are they really testing what they think? (1)

ScottLindner (954299) | more than 8 years ago | (#15157870)

Didn't the article cover that point? That they ran a test to generate data that can be observed in a real life example. So now they have a dataset to use as a comparison when they observe this event happening for real in the wild. Right? Isn't that what the point of the article was for?

It didn't prove anything.. yet. As you noted.

Re:Are they really testing what they think? (1)

thePig (964303) | more than 8 years ago | (#15158037)

oops sorry.
I was reading another article on the same and replied on behalf of that.
My mistake.

Re:Are they really testing what they think? (1)

prgrmr (568806) | more than 8 years ago | (#15157809)

The simplest tensor calculus equations require thousands of lines of computer coding. The expansions, called formulations, can be written in many ways. Through mathematical intuition, the Goddard team has found the appropriate formulations to lead to suitable simulations.

More like, did they guess right with their "mathematical intuition" in creating the computer code. Or did they just muck with it until they got a pretty video that wouldn't crash the system. This could be just another NASA problem with methods and management.

Re:Are they really testing what they think? (1)

gsslay (807818) | more than 8 years ago | (#15157991)

This as much proves Einstein "was right" as a LOTR computer game proves Tolkien "was right".

Only once you compare the simulation to reality is anything proven. Hobbits on my computer prove nothing.

Re:Are they really testing what they think? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15157995)

I'm sure those highly qualified NASA scientists are wasting millions of dollars on a really obvious schoolboy error that needs to be pointed out by some feckless nerd on slashdot, along with the chip designers at Intel, who can't be bothered to learn from one mistake they made 15 years ago, and in fact like to make sure every chip they produce won't round numbers properly, as it helps promote brand awareness.

"Score: 5, Interesting" my fucking ASS.

That's new to me. (3, Interesting)

ErikZ (55491) | more than 8 years ago | (#15157627)

Non spinning black holes?

Is there such a thing?

Re:That's new to me. (0)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 8 years ago | (#15157773)

It is possible if they were in a position that is not effected by the Coreorlos[sp?] Effect Say they were in a position bewteen 8 Galaxies all spinning in directions that couter act the torque effect on the black hole. Thus the Black hole will not spin and just suck things straight in.

Re:That's new to me. (4, Funny)

OverlordQ (264228) | more than 8 years ago | (#15157860)

Can't even spell Coriolis yet we're supposed to believe you know about black holes and physics regarding them?

Re:That's new to me. (1)

Krazy Nemesis (795036) | more than 8 years ago | (#15158036)

when two massive black holes merge, all of space jiggles like a bowl of Jell-O as gravitational waves race out from the collision at light speed
Hey, JelloMizer knows about Jell-O... obviously he knows what he's talking about.

Re:That's new to me. (1)

vertinox (846076) | more than 8 years ago | (#15157838)

Non spinning black holes?

Is there such a thing?


Can a single point spin?

Although, I don't know if the center of a black hole is more than a single point

Re:That's new to me. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15157887)

Sigh. If the stuff going into the black hole has angular momentum then I think the answer has to be yes. I think that would hold all the way up to just short of CPT violation.
 

Re:That's new to me. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15157842)

Most observed black holes, and most theoretical projections, are that they tend to spin due to the fact that the star they collapsed from had rotation.

So, /maybe/. If they ever see two thought-to-be-extremely-rare non-spinning black holes merge, then their work will be highly valuable.

If only they had scrod.

OAQ (5, Funny)

LouisZepher (643097) | more than 8 years ago | (#15157634)

Not mentioned in the article of course, is that shortly after the simulation, the software collapsed in on itself as it underwent a Massive Total Existence Failure.

Wasted funding? (0, Troll)

dada21 (163177) | more than 8 years ago | (#15157649)

I thought NASA was having financial difficulties and no real direction in where they'll "lead" us in the future. This seems like an terrible waste of taxpayer dollars.

What is the actual outcome from this research? Will this help create more energy-efficiency in the world? Will it help us find technology that humanity can actually use to make a better society? Will it increase our safety, or decrease power of madmen and dictators?

Stories like this make me feel sad that many people feel we need public funding for research that seems to have no real gain for those paying for it. Sure, I love physics and astrophysics, but I would rather voluntarily give a few hundred greenbacks a year to a private research company that see it wasted on publicans who get paid no matter what they're doing.

Re:Wasted funding? (3, Funny)

iainl (136759) | more than 8 years ago | (#15157686)

I don't know about you, but I already give enough of my money to publicans on a Friday night...

Re:Wasted funding? (0)

mapkinase (958129) | more than 8 years ago | (#15157705)

Right on the money, please mod him up more.

Re:Wasted funding? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15157757)

What is useless now will someday be useful.

Exempli gratis (and it's way out there):

Using this new data, someone observes a black hole merger. It doesn't fit the data. Relativity is redone, so to speak. Someone sees a great way to unify Relativity and quantum mechanics because of the new formulation. Bam. Like that, unified theory of everything. Those spinning superconductors generating magnetogravitic fields are understood. Artificial gravity and anti-gravity are discovered. Moon-flights are near cheap after a while. Etc. etc.

Saying "I don't see any results coming out of this tomorrow so this research is useless" is about as shortsighted as one can get. It's akin to foreign aid: sure, it gets us little immediate benefits, but the long-term stuff can really pile up.

Re:Wasted funding? (5, Insightful)

hswerdfe (569925) | more than 8 years ago | (#15157776)

What is the actual outcome from this research?
more knowledge about the universe and how it might work.

Will this help create more energy-efficiency in the world?
maybe, who can say what future developments and understanding of this area of physics will bring.

Will it help us find technology that humanity can actually use to make a better society?
maybe, see above. it depends on the definition of "better".
when general relativity was first thought of in 1915 there was no application, for the average person. today GPS relies on general relativity.

Will it increase our safety, or decrease power of madmen and dictators?
the obvious answer is probably not. and while these are important questions, this one is not topical in this discussion.

Re:Wasted funding? (0, Troll)

mapkinase (958129) | more than 8 years ago | (#15158028)

more knowledge about the universe and how it might work.

Nope. You have to do real experiments to get that.

maybe, who can say what future developments and understanding of this area of physics will bring.

key word is "understanding". Understanding is impossible without normal scientific cycle which includes hypothesis, theory and experiment. There is no experiment here.

today GPS relies on general relativity.

Right, if by "relies" you mean 1e-7s correction.

the obvious answer is probably not. and while these are important questions, this one is not topical in this discussion.

Correct. 1 out of 4.

Re:Wasted funding? (4, Insightful)

A.K.A_Magnet (860822) | more than 8 years ago | (#15157777)

How about making science progress by testing a part of one of the most important theory in physics? It's not my funding, however I'd love my country to invest more in science even if only for the sake of science. We're in an era where everything has to be justified by money, it feels like the Dark Age of information. I'm waiting for the next era where new thoughts, science and knowledge progress get some value back.

Call me utopist if you want, but finding something that "increase our safety, or decrease power of madmen and dictators" gets the #1 naive award (always thinking big shields and weapons, what a world).

Re:Wasted funding? (1)

mapkinase (958129) | more than 8 years ago | (#15157821)

How about making science progress by testing a part of one of the most important theory in physics?

Key word is "testing". This is not testing. Testing means REAL physical experiments. If it is not testable like that, then I stand by his words.

Re:Wasted funding? (1)

A.K.A_Magnet (860822) | more than 8 years ago | (#15157893)

Well, in a quantum mechanics experiments, you cannot physically test because you'd change the environment. Does it mean we don't have to simulate, even if we cannot physically test?

The testing the merger of two black holes is quite the contrary,, and we'd be the ones destroyed if we'd get too close. The only solution is through astronomic observation, so we're waiting for the phenomenon to appear. However, how to compare with our current laws of physics (in the case, Einstein's theories) if we don't simulate them before to check if the result we get is somewhat close to our observations? This is called testing.

It's pretty similar to unit testing in software design/programmation. We put some assertions through the code, and we execute it, if works as planned, and if we checked all the border-cases, we can guess if some code is OK. The same goes with physics theories. In fact, it's so much the same that some say that the whole universe is a quantum computer [wired.com] :).

PS: I'm no physicist.

Re:Wasted funding? (2, Insightful)

ShibaInu (694434) | more than 8 years ago | (#15157813)

I realize that this doesn't fit nicely into your libertarian view, but we often do science just for the sake of doing it. Knowledge in and of itself is a good thing, and funding some cycles on a computer that would otherwise be simulating nukes or finding prime numbers doesn't seem wasteful to me at all.

Re:Wasted funding? (1)

susano_otter (123650) | more than 8 years ago | (#15157885)

I don't think "simulating nukes or finding prime numbers" is wasteful either, so for me it's a win-win situation. Go NASA!

Re:Wasted funding? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15157856)

We shouldn't abandon research like this just because a practical application isn't apparent. Look at modern day medicine. Do you think 80 years ago when researchers were probing atomic and sub atmoic particles that they had any idea where it would lead?

Where would we be without MRI machines and radiation therapy?

Re:Wasted funding? (1)

x1n933k (966581) | more than 8 years ago | (#15157874)

Yeah, all that wasted funding could have been put back into arms building to supply Budwiser drinkin', selfish, gun toting cultures with a means to continue wasting their lives with answers they all-ready have.

Who cares about the ways our universe work when I know my Xbox 360 can connect me to the internet. What use is pumping billions into sending friends into some country over flip-flopping undefined reasons? Oh! Because you sir, like many others only think with 5 minutes ahead. The teams involved with this program involved students (Of Schools and LIFE) who are in fact learning something. This may not directly lead to a way for you to feel happy because it doesn't appear anyone will profit from this but hell, they're learning. We're learning. With the gains here it can lead to bigger developments.

What's sad is you love physics but in my expert opion(^~), you don't love yourself.

Taxpayers money? Why should we care. It's calculations at a low cost for people to learn or a couple of foreign caualities.

Ah, but why bother ranting. Can't fight our programming. [J]

Re:Wasted funding? (2, Informative)

Omniscientist (806841) | more than 8 years ago | (#15157880)

If this experiment can ultimately lead us to see if Einstein was right about gravitational waves or not, then this is not a waste of funding. Because these waves are thought to be unchanged by any material they happen to pass through, it is thought that they may carry unaltered signals across various reaches of space. This could theoretically provide us with a way to estimate cosmological distances and help us understand how the universe was formed, what the whole of it looks like, and the ultimate fate of the universe.

So if this experiment shows us that Einstein was right about gravitational waves, and those waves can tell us so much about the universe, I wouldn't call it a waste of money. Of course now we have to go through the trouble of actually detecting the bastards...

Re:Wasted funding? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15157949)

On a personal financial scale the money spent on physics research may appear large. Compared to the rest of federal spending its a drop in the bucket. Its probable that a lot of physics research is merely science for science's sake and will never return a tangible benefit. The research could also lead to new theories that lead to better lasers or superconductors or process technologies. Unfortunately, its easier to pick on science projects that the majority of the public don't understand than it is to challenge a senator's porkfest. Is improving our understanding of the universe more valuable than building a highway to nowhere in Alaska or the other hundreds of earmarked pork projects in the federal budget?

Re:Wasted funding? (1)

davidoff404 (764733) | more than 8 years ago | (#15157953)

What is the actual outcome from this research?

Well, if the simulations match the waveforms that LIGO is expected to detect in the next couple of years, it's another verification that Einstein was right about gravity.

Will this help create more energy-efficiency in the world?

It doesn't claim to. The search for an AIDS vaccine doesn't claim to help us with energy efficiency either; would you cancel that just because it won't give you cheaper electricity?

Will it help us find technology that humanity can actually use to make a better society?

Almost definitely. The systems of equations that underlie general relativity are horrendous elliptic or hyperbolic nonlinear PDEs. Until people started thinking seriously about ways to model large-scale gravitational processes such as black hole coalescence, nobody had a clue how to analyse such systems of equations. When theorists sat down and thought about the problem they came up with some bitingly elegant ways to reduce the system of equations into ones which a computer can handle. Since these types of PDEs pop up all over the place (fluid mechanics, ocean-atmosphere dynamics, plasma containment in Tokamak reactors), it's actually already been a huge success in helping us to model nonlinear systems while making sure that the calculations don't blow up.

Will it increase our safety, or decrease power of madmen and dictators?

No. Only the American people can do that by not voting a Bush into office for a third time.

Re:Wasted funding? (1)

prgrmr (568806) | more than 8 years ago | (#15157966)

Stories like this make me feel sad that many people feel we need public funding for research that seems to have no real gain for those paying for it.

I would question your definition of "seems" and "gain". It's people like you that are a large part of the reason why we don't have colonies on the moon and Mars, why we've not been to the stars and found other habitable planets. It's not like this one is going to last forever, and it's not like we are going to stop screwing with it. Understanding how gravity works will eventually lead us to understand how we can control it, and therein lies the key to escaping this world and ultimately to our species survial.

And just so you know you don't have to take my word for it, I'll leave you to ponder words of wisdom from those who vision is unimpeachable:

"An age is called Dark not because the light fails to shine, but because people refuse to see it"

-- James Michener

"Imagination has brought mankind through the dark ages to its present state of civilization. Imagination led Columbus to discover America. Imagination led Franklin to discover electricity."

-- L. Frank Baum.

Re:Wasted funding? (1)

chanda3199 (786804) | more than 8 years ago | (#15157982)

While I don't intend to argue against your point, I do have some input. I agree that wasted funding is a shame and well...wasted.

On the other hand, NASA research has historically had impacts in many aspects of our daily lives. The often used example is velcro. At the time, NASA was researching how to keep things from floating around while in orbit. Your average person would have said something like, "That's great NASA. I'll use that next time I'm 30 miles over the Earth." But now, velcro is commonplace in our lives.

I would venture to say the same is true for this research. While I'm no where near smart enough to be able to further this line of research to something plausible, I would like to think that this will eventually be used for the good of humanity. Who knows? Maybe if you fast forward 250 years, humanity will have produced the technology necessary to harvest energy from a black hole. This research would surely be a step along that path.

I personally feel that all valid technology and science research is good time and money spent. Eventually, we'll reach a point where we can use each and every little scientific fact that we can wring from this complex Universe.

Re:Wasted funding? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15157989)

No, there is nothing practical about what they have accomplished. Most of what they have learned won't apply at all to make your car use less fuel, or cure cancer, or kill Karl Rove. Nothing about a black hole is practical in your everyday life. You are completely right. Let's abandon all reasearch into computational computing.

In fact, our lives would be so much better without all of the computational computing research that was impractical when it was done. For example, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cooley-Tukey_FFT_algo rithm [wikipedia.org] . Life would be better if we never had that research. We can do without MRIs and radio communication and sonar and ultrasound.

Or what about http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cryptanalysis_of_the_ Enigma [wikipedia.org] . Boy that was a waste of time. I'm sure it wouldn't have been so bad to learn German.

Understand computation computing's payoffs are not immediate. They take time. BUT Moore's law is on our side. Every day, the application of an idea becomes cheaper and easier. The fact that they simulated a black hole is useless. The fact that they COULD simulate a black hole isn't. They invented a new type of math, and proved it was implementable, not by waving their hands, but by building it. How else can we use that math? I'm not sure, but I am excited to see.

You, sir, are an idiot. I'm glad you don't set NASA's (or ANY hopefully other agencies) research budget.

Mod parent down.

Next thing U know (0, Offtopic)

Akoma The Immortal (36474) | more than 8 years ago | (#15157666)

We will loose it in the center of the hearth and using it as a bouncing laser mirror to propel cities into space, while a mother at home will infect the 'net' and kill anything that threaten her mastery of her "domain".

Sigh.. :)

Ick! (3, Funny)

Rob T Firefly (844560) | more than 8 years ago | (#15157670)

TFA: when two massive black holes merge, all of space jiggles like a bowl of Jell-O

Watching massive things merging.. jiggling like jell-o... Good heavens, space is a pervert!!!

For the last time folks, they're not black holes! (2, Funny)

teshuvah (831969) | more than 8 years ago | (#15157673)

They're not black holes, they're just a result of Intelligent Darkness. Seriously, why do we teach kids today the theory of black holes without not also teaching them about Intelligent Darkness?

What have you been (drinking, or snorting, or huff (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15157753)

ing?) I hope what you have is not contagious!

Not the first time. (0, Redundant)

dohzer (867770) | more than 8 years ago | (#15157675)

I performed the same simulaton once, but I forgot to save the results :(

and what? (1, Insightful)

mapkinase (958129) | more than 8 years ago | (#15157677)

Simulation means nothing with validation.

Re:and what? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15157769)

The validation comes after the prediction: the huge laser arrays looking for gravity waves are searching for such. This simulation defines what the most massive of gravity waves, thus most detectable, should look like.

WoW Nasa (0, Offtopic)

bigwavejas (678602) | more than 8 years ago | (#15157678)

I've been riding past a black hole on my Kodo for months now in Silithus. For the Horde!!!

A Long HIstory of Calculations (2, Interesting)

rotenberry (3487) | more than 8 years ago | (#15157735)

Scientists has been doing similar calculations for a long time. For example

Larry Smarr, "Gravitational Radiation from Distant Encounters and Head-On Collisions of Black Holes: The Zero Frequency Limit," Phys. Rev., D15, 2069-2077, 1977.

I cite this paper because Larry Smarr is one of the Nasa panelists for this project, and I heard his talk on this paper at the University of Texas at Austin in the late 1970s. Come to think of it, I remember seeing one of the other panelists, Joan Centrella, at the same talk.

Equations too complex? (5, Interesting)

Urban Garlic (447282) | more than 8 years ago | (#15157741)

OK, I'm no general relativist, but I am a computational physicist -- what could the article possibly mean when it says earlier attempts were "plagued by computer crashes -- the equations were far too complex"?

I can imagine a situation where a poorly-arranged computation of an equation might give you an underflow in an intermediate result, or where a badly-arranged summation might give you noise. But crashing the computer? Sounds more like array-bounds, which can happen no matter how simple the equations are.

Re:Equations too complex? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15157830)

It's "crashes" due to numbers getting too big, like the hamiltonian constraint. The errors grow too fast and the simulations become unstable and fail - they produce NANS, divide by zeros and what not. Not bad pointer refences and things like that.

Re:Equations too complex? (5, Informative)

augustm (147506) | more than 8 years ago | (#15157965)

A major technical problem of integrating field equations is in
the propagation of /constraints/ on the components. Ie GR
describes the time evolution of a tensor for which all the
components are not independent- for instance they obey
Bianchi identities.
http://mathworld.wolfram.com/BianchiIdentities.htm l [wolfram.com]


Simple numerical integrators destroy these identities
at order dt^n for some small but finite n. Run the code
forwards and one can find finite time blow ups due to
the stepping algorithm- however even after a single
time step the numerical solution has unphysical aspects


Finding /constraint conserving/ algorithms is tricky
http://www.ima.umn.edu/nr/abstracts/6-24abs.html [umn.edu]

Re:Equations too complex? (1)

davidoff404 (764733) | more than 8 years ago | (#15158024)

OK, I'm no general relativist, but I am a computational physicist -- what could the article possibly mean when it says earlier attempts were "plagued by computer crashes -- the equations were far too complex"?

The article is a bit wooly. Basically, Einstein's equations are a system of constrained partial differential equations. The horrible thing about them is that they are all coupled and nonlinear too. There exist several mathematical ways to analyse these sorts of things in the continuum, mainly centered around the use of a conformal decomposition of the equations. The problem with getting a computer to analyse them is that the computer has to work in discrete space and it's notoriously difficult to model these types of nonlinear PDEs discretely. People have been using various discrete element and finite-mesh approaches for years, but they've inevitably run into problems when trying to increase the resolution of their simulations.

NASA's Budget (-1, Flamebait)

aapold (753705) | more than 8 years ago | (#15157765)

The simulation was run to try and explain what happened to NASA's budget.

mod Ugp (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15157814)

USEnET IS ROUGHLY which gathers

Microsoft invented this already, called it Windows (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15157817)

But it just sucks in your Money, Time, along with you Patience and/or Hair.

They've even figured out how to predict where the 'other end' will show up. They've got the Money showing up in Redmond WA( One Microsoft Way ). They don't care about the other things getting sucked into their MS BlackHole so they're sending that to the polar ice caps. With the huge number of "features" tied into/onto/around Windows, a massive increase in excess Time and Patience is getting consumed by the wildlife up there and it's killing the Polar Bears. They've go so much time on their hands/paws, they're going to long long swims in the open ocean and end up drowning from exhaustion.

Recently, they've been able to get MS BlackHole to suck in your Personal Data but they lost control of the "other end" and that stuff is randomly popping up in the hands of identity theives. To their great pleasure I might add.

NASA's got nothing on those incredible minds up at Microsoft.

Wow... (1, Funny)

khelms (772692) | more than 8 years ago | (#15157826)

That must be like half the Itaniums ever sold!

I can too! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15157843)

It's easy to simulate a black hole.

Just fill your car with gasoline. The money just disappears into a deep black hole.

Tensor Calculus (1)

cvalente (955264) | more than 8 years ago | (#15157855)

"The simplest tensor calculus equations require thousands of lines of computer coding. The expansions, called formulations, can be written in many ways. Through mathematical intuition, the Goddard team has found the appropriate formulations to lead to suitable simulations."

Does anyone have further info on this apparently new way of implementing tensor calculus on a computer?

I am wondering... (0, Troll)

julienbh (969003) | more than 8 years ago | (#15157866)

if that breakthrough is a come-back from USA to scare Iran. QUOTE "The United States and Britain say that if Iran does not comply with the Security Council's April 28 deadline for Tehran to stop [Uranium] enrichment, they will seek a resolution making the demand compulsory (i.e: Destroy strategic emplacements)." Guardian [guardian.co.uk] I already imagine a huge black hole over teheran and flying turbans... and cows.

Why not... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15157908)

...in Soviet astrophysics simulations, black holes merge with YOU!

Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15157935)

Why? Who cares? Stop wasting money.

They could even run a virus scan (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15158004)

at the same time as the simulation with that much CPU power.

Doesn't Disney have the rights to black holes? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15158012)

And painted on eyed robots?
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