World-leading supercomputer instrumental in discovery of proof point for Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity by Cardiff University

February 29, 2016

London 29 February 2016: The discovery announced  by an international team of scientists, including Cardiff University’s Gravitational Physics Group, of the detection of the first-ever gravitational waves proving Albert Einstein’s 1915 general theory of relativity was supported by a Bull supercomputer. This world-leading technology is the power behind much scientific research by universities, research institutions and, to a growing extent, by business.

The discovery is being considered as one of the biggest breakthroughs in physics for the last 100 years, as these tiny ripples in space-time are likely to offer a new way of exploring the universe. Gravitational waves interact very weakly with particles and require incredibly sensitive equipment to detect them which is why technological advances have been so important to the process.

Dr. Stephen Fairhurst, Cardiff University, said, “To be able to make breakthrough discoveries of this nature we need the power of the best technology behind us. The supercomputer is designed to enable the most ambitious programmes and gives our scientists and researchers the opportunity to become industry leading. A Bull team of technology experts and Cardiff University’s Advanced Research Computing Group (ARCCA) were available to us throughout the project to make sure we were able to get the highest performance possible from the supercomputer so that we could make this once in a generation breakthrough.”

The supercomputer is designed to be able to comb through extensive data that had been gathered by more than 1,000 [1]scientists and researchers involved in the project. The Cardiff University team also used the supercomputer to conduct simulations of black-hole collisions to produce theoretical models, confirming the signals detected by the US-based LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory) Project were in fact gravitational waves.

Andy Grant, Senior Vice President for Big Data and Security at Bull, the technology division of Atos, said: “Technology is a huge enabler of science and research and it’s incredible for our technology to have played a part in such an important scientific discovery. Having cutting edge innovative solutions like our supercomputers, in terms of compute performance and the ability to process large volumes of data is key to enabling scientific leaps in innovation and discovery.  It is particularly pleasing that researchers from Cardiff University worked extensively with the Bull Centre for Excellence in Parallel Programming to optimise the performance of their applications for the supercomputer.”

Bull specialise in designing, building and operating some of the worlds’ largest supercomputers. On-going investment into research and development in this area means that the technology remains at the forefront of the industry. The current focus on the next iteration is on the drive to exascale, and energy efficient supercomputing which Bull will deliver using our recently announced sequana HPC platform.