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B. Advances in Computer Technology Help Astrophysicists Understand Supernovae

Narrator: This is Science Today. Despite their prominent role in astronomy, there's still a lot about supernovae - or massive exploding stars - that's not known, including just how these stars do explode. Stan Woosley, director of the Center for Supernova Research at the University of California, Santa Cruz, says a team of astrophysicists and computer scientists at four different institutions are working on the problem. But as Woosley points out, it's not a problem that can be solved with pencil and paper.

Woosley: It's something that you have to simulate on the largest computers in the world. So this is really a problem in computational astrophysics and one reason we're making progress of late is because of the enormous advances in computer technology that have occurred in the last decade.

Narrator: Woosley says they don't run machines that have a single CPU anymore - they run computers that have five thousand CPUs wired together.

Woosley: And each of these processors might not be much faster than your home computer that you could buy, but there are thousands of them and they are optimized to work together.

Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.