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Video games and immune system response modeling? It's all in the hardware.

Figuring out what happens when foreign bodies invade the human body is fairly serious business. Confined mostly to the realm of test tubes, complex reactions like the human immune system responding to a tuberculosis infection have been difficult and time consuming to study – willing volunteers for this kind of study are hard to come by.

Computer modeling has made these trial-and-error type studies easier by being able to replicate a system's response to an introduced external factor -- simply program the behavior of the components of the system and hit the start button.

Agent based modeling may take this kind of systems study to the next level, however, and a team of computer scientists at Michigan Tech University are making it happen without the use of super-powerful, super-expensive supercomputers. Under the direction of Roshan D'Souza, computer science students at MTU have developed agent based modeling software that harnesses the power of modern graphics processing units.

"With a $1,400 desktop, we can beat a computing cluster. We are effectively democratizing supercomputing and putting these powerful tools into the hands of any researcher. Every time I present this research, I make it a point to thank the millions of video gamers who have inadvertently made this possible,” says D'Souza of the project.

Agent based modeling is a very powerful tool in which many different components, factors and behaviors can be programmed and then let loose in a simulated environment. The outcomes of large systems are often unpredictable and surprising.

MTU's software, which was created by computer science student Mikola Lysenko, is not limited to small systems with few factors such as the previous tuberculosis example. Ryan Richards, a fellow computer science student explained, "We can do very complex ecosystems right now. If you're looking at epidemiology, we could easily simulate an epidemic in the US, Canada and Mexico."

It seems the days of supercomputers and complex simulations may be numbered, becoming an endangered species quickly at the hands of the relatively inexpensive gamer's video card. Perhaps the next step in evolution for these modeling software projects could be similar to Stanford's very successful Folding@Home project, using the client's GPU to power its way to understanding new and complex systems.



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RE: Quad-crossfire?
By Souka on 9/23/2008 10:36:23 AM , Rating: 2
Actually.... just a few weeks ago I came across my Ti-85 calculator from college and we blended it in a blender that was in another box.

Wwiiizzzzzz...bang...bang...bang...crunch..crunch ....then the blender broke. :)

Now before any of ya make a complaint like "you could sell it" it had two problems... 1st: batteries were left in and had completely leaked and corroded the guts. 2nd: it had my student ID inscribed deeply into cover and body...back then studentID was your SSN#...

Cheers!


RE: Quad-crossfire?
By SunAngel on 9/23/2008 11:24:37 AM , Rating: 2
Dude, when were you in college - 1951? Excel has been the choice of calculators since Office 2000.


RE: Quad-crossfire?
By Suntan on 9/23/2008 11:51:39 AM , Rating: 2
Yes, of course, because nobody went to college between 1951 and 2000...

Good grief, some of the people we have to share this planet with.

-Suntan


RE: Quad-crossfire?
By Guerreiro29 on 9/23/2008 3:55:32 PM , Rating: 2
Excel? You must not have taken any math intensive courses in college if you were using Excel as a calculator. Sure it handles large data sets nicely, but everything it does with the data sets boils down to add, subtract, multiply or divide. No calculus, linear algebra, differential equations, or vector manipulations whatsoever. No thank you, I’ll take my trusty TI-89 over Excel any day, although I would prefer Matlab which actually is the calculator of choice for math, science, and engineering.


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