Nerval's Lobster writes: Astrophysicists at MIT and the Pawsey supercomputing center in Western Australia have discovered a whole new role for supercomputers working on big-data science projects: They’ve figured out how to turn a supercomputer into a router. (Make that a really, really big router.) The supercomputer in this case is a Cray Cascade system with a top performance of 0.3 petaflops—to be expanded to 1.2 petaflops in 2014—running on a combination of Intel Ivy Bridge, Haswell and MIC processors. The machine, which is still being installed at the Pawsey Centre in Kensington, Western Australia and isn’t scheduled to become operational until later this summer, had to go to work early after researchers switched on the world’s most sensitive radio telescope June 9. The Murchison Widefield Array is a 2,000-antenna radio telescope located at the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory (MRO) in Western Australia, built with the backing of universities in the U.S., Australia, India and New Zealand. Though it is the most powerful radio telescope in the world right now, it is only one-third of the Square Kilometer Array—a spread of low-frequency antennas that will be spread across a kilometer of territory in Australia and Southern Africa. It will be 50 times as sensitive as any other radio telescope and 10,000 times as quick to survey a patch of sky. By comparison, the Murchison Widefield Array is a tiny little thing stuck out as far in the middle of nowhere as Australian authorities could find to keep it as far away from terrestrial interference as possible. Tiny or not, the MWA can look farther into the past of the universe than any other human instrument to date. What it has found so far is data—lots and lots of data. More than 400 megabytes of data per second come from the array to the Murchison observatory, before being streamed across 500 miles of Australia’s National Broadband Network to the Pawsey Centre, which gets rid of most of it as quickly as possible.
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