June 8, 2011

Videogames and Exoplanets

So you've heard that planets are more numerous than stars? That discovery is mind-blowing by itself, but even more fascinating is how that exogasmic discovery was made. Dig deep into the technology behind Gravitational Microlensing and you’ll find out something playfully interesting; A graphics card originally intended for videogames was used to discover the rogue planets!

A member of the astrophysics team named Joe Ling has turned his love of computer games into a way of discovering the wandering planets in our galaxy. He took a $400 gaming graphics card and wired it into the team's computer, which sped up the process known as microlensing modelling.

Without the gaming card it would take hundreds of computers and cost thousands of dollars; and it would take one month to process on a normal desktop computer. But with the graphics processing unit inside the gaming card it only takes six hours.

Gaming not only inspires imagination and creativity, it's also a source of technological marvels as it constantly strives for deeper levels of immersion. No wonder I've been rekindling the joy of immersing myself into the virtual worlds of videogames even more. And I often find myself reflecting and realizing that there is no difference between "virtual" and "real". The intersection of Videogames and Exoplanet Science is just one proof of that metaphysical fact.

Planets Outnumber Stars
Intersection of Videogames and Exoplanet Science
Videogames: A Path to Reflection and Self-enlightenment (Kill Screen)

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