Lab Canada

Graphic results of supermassive black hole collisions

Toronto, ON – Abdul Mroue and Harald Pfeiffer may soon be crashing together black holes on their desktops; they announced a major breakthrough recently at Canada’s largest supercomputing conference.

The researchers at the Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics at the University of Toronto study collisions of supermassive black holes, understood to occur in the centres of galaxies. These events spark a flash of energy that would, for a brief moment, outshine everything else in the entire universe. The flash is in the form of gravity waves – ripples in space which planned experiments will be able to detect, and use to test general relativity.

“Only recently have computer calculations become sophisticated enough to show in detail what happens when black holes collide”, said Professor Pfeiffer, “and with our collaborators at Caltech and Cornell, we are eager to learn all we can about the resulting violent explosions.” However, such computer calculations are very challenging and require computers like the largest in Canada, the GPC, which is run by the SciNet consortium at the University of Toronto.

Their new technique uses not a computer’s main processor, but its graphics hardware, which in most modern desktops is more powerful. This added computer power, says Dr. Mroue, “Will help us do the many simulations we need to do cheaper, and faster. These simulations will help experimenters find these gravity waves, and, once found, decipher what they mean.”

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