The University of Warwick’s new £1.3 million monster computer is to be put to work analysing the natural properties of the humble mollusc shell. 

The study of molluscs could lead to tough new synthetic structures used in hip replacements - Image provided by the University of Warwick

Using state-of-the-art computer modelling techniques Warwick’s scientists are hoping to discover how these remarkable calcium carbonate creatures, combine enzymes and proteins to make strong, but incredibly light structures.  By understanding better the natural properties of the mollusc shell, the research could revolutionise the development of synthetic materials that has commercial uses ranging from building materials to the making synthetic bone structures used in orthopaedics.

In their quest to fathom out how to mimic Mother Nature, mathematicians, physicists, biologists and chemists are using the new super-computer’s colossal capacity to run their models faster than ever before which has sped up their research considerably.

The 3000 core computer lives in Warwicks' Physical Sciences Building on campus, stands six feet tall and is about the size of eight filing cabinets. Professor Mark Rodger, Director for the Centre for Scientific Computing, said,: “When you think that your PC or laptop at home is generally dual core (only two cores), it puts into perspective the potential capacity of just how powerful this computer is.”

There are only a handful of computers with this capacity in the country with Warwick’s model being one of the largest at any academic institution in the UK Professor Rodger said: “This computer is capable of running highly complicated models and analysis in a fraction of the time other computers would take. So now, what used to take a week to run, we can obtain overnight. This has a huge benefit in terms of cost and time and will be incredibly valuable to the service Warwick can offer its academics.  This computer is capable of running highly complicated models and analysis in a fraction of the time other computers would take. So now, what used to take a week to run, we can obtain overnight. This has a huge benefit in terms of cost and time and will be incredibly valuable to the service Warwick can offer its academics.”


A new study led by University of Leicester psychologist Dr Samantha Johnson hopes to explain why children born very prematurely may struggle with maths.

Image by: Dave Wicks

The study will compare children born more than eight weeks early with children born at full term then look at which areas of maths and numeracy these children find hard.

More than 10,000 babies are born very prematurely every year, with many going on to develop learning disabilities.   Problems with maths are particularly common, but the problems seem to be very specific and cannot be explained by conventional methods such as testing for low IQ.  In is hoped that the study by investigating the nature and causes of premature children's difficulties with maths a better educational provision for premature children can be provided to teachers and families.

The new study, which is backed by children's charity Action Medical Research, is also supported by psychologists from the universities of Loughborough, Nottingham and University College London.