- Associated Press - Friday, February 12, 2016

BURNSVILLE, Minn. (AP) - A Minnesota supercomputing company has a role in the research that’s being heralded as one of the biggest discoveries in the history of physics - the sound of gravitational waves.

When scientists captured the sound of two black holes colliding in space, they did it with a system of supercomputers designed and built by Nor-Tech, a Burnsville firm that’s relatively new in the supercomputing industry.

The company has been working with the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and California State University, Fullerton for a decade on the cluster that made the detection of the gravitational waves possible, the Star Tribune (https://strib.mn/1XnupER ) reported.

The discovery by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory, a $1.1 billion facility in Louisiana known as LIGO, exhilarated astronomers and physicists who will now be able to hear the soundtrack of the universe and listen as violent collisions reshape the cosmos. It confirms a theory that Albert Einstein predicted a century ago: that a merging of black holes would cause a ripple in space and time.

“When Dr. Bruce Allen (a leading researcher at LIGO) started looking for a supercomputer 10 or 11 years ago, we became married to him,” said David Bollig, Nor-Tech’s founder and chief executive, who started the company in 1998 as Northern Computer Technologies. “We’ve been selling them storage space and their computer modeling.”

Nor-Tech’s Orca computing cluster was used for the simulations and movies shown when the discovery was announced Thursday at a press conference.

Nor-Tech designs and sells computing cluster systems, which are formed by linking dozens or hundreds of high-performance PC servers together so their combined processing power can take on a complex task, and sells them to businesses, government agencies and research facilities like LIGO.

Bollig said he thinks it was “cool, pretty crazy” that the researchers at LIGO were able to detect the gravitational waves.

“They’ve thrown so much money at it that a whole slough of things may open up,” he said.

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Information from: Star Tribune, https://www.startribune.com

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