And we thought Sega Genesis was cool

Scientists are using the power of the Playstation 3 to solve scientific problems.

You probably won’t believe it, but video games just might save the human race. Scientists are using the power of PlayStation 3 – the new gaming console released by Sony this month – to help find cures for Alzheimer’s disease and certain types of cancer. Researchers are able to tap into the power of unused consoles through a program gamers download. The gamers simply leave their Playstaion3 plugged into the Internet, and when the machine is idle it works on solving today’s toughest scientific challenges. And we thought Sega Genesis was cool.

This marvel of technology is part of [email protected], a project run by Stanford University’s chemistry department. It uses distributed computing (i.e. multiple remote computers combining efforts) to solve complex problems. Since the project started in 2000, it has made several scientific discoveries and has been the focus of dozens of scientific research papers.

Though the program has been operating on computers for years, the jump to PS3 is truly remarkable. Scientists say that 10,000 PS3s running the program can compute a thousand trillion calculations per second, nearly four times more calculations than the world’s fastest supercomputer. The reason for its super-hero strength? The processor used by PS3s, called the “cell,” runs nearly 10 times faster than the current processors used in today’s computers. So when these consoles link together, they create one giant calculation Hercules. A graphics application is currently in the works to allow users who download the program to check out the computations from several angles as they occur.

So now we can all shell out hundreds for a PS3 not simply because playing Medal of Honor on it is just that cool, but also because we’d be doing our small part to help the human race. Who knew video games promised so much? It seems like just yesterday that Super Mario Brothers 3 was keeping us from our homework. But in this day and age, who needs homework if video games can just do it for you? Now, if only they could engineer something that would attend class for us. It could take notes and ask the professor incisive questions while we stay at home in bed, running calculations of our own. Now that would be something special.