CUDA Spotlight: Our World: 2.1 Billion Years Ago

An international team has discovered multi-cellular organisms in Gabon, Africa that are 2.1 billion years old -- with assistance from the GPU. This discovery was recently highlighted in Nature. To learn more, we contacted Arnaud Mazurier of ERM in Poitiers, France and Francois Curnier, CEO of Digisens.

NVIDIA: Arnaud, why is this discovery a breakthrough?
Arnaud: The first chapter of the history book on life now needs to be rewritten! This discovery is quite astonishing because the fossils (which are 1-12 centimeters long and look a bit like cookies) reveal that large organisms were growing in a coordinated manner 2.1 billion years ago, rather than ˜600 million years ago as previously thought.

NVIDIA: What are the implications from a scientific perspective?
Arnaud: This discovery can potentially provide scientists with new insight into the planet Earth during that time, including atmospheric and ocean conditions. It causes us to rethink our conclusions about how multi-cellular life first appeared and evolved.

NVIDIA: How did GPU computing play a role?
Arnaud: The use of GPUs (Quadro FX5600, Tesla C870) allowed us to reconstruct data more quickly (in this case, 6-10 minutes with GPUs versus 12-15 hours in the past with CPUs). This gave us precious time to examine more specimens and refine the final virtual reconstruction.

NVIDIA: Who are the key players on the research team?
Arnaud: This is a multidisciplinary project coordinated by Abderrazzak El Albani from the University of Poitiers. In all, 16 institutions and 21 researchers are involved. ERM was in charge of acquisition and virtual 3D reconstructions, using DigiCT software from Digisens.

NVIDIA: Francois, tell us about Digisens.
Francois: We create reconstruction software that transforms 2D projections into 3D volumes. Most people know about this technology through computed tomography (CT) scans. An innovative research team at the University of Poitiers was one of our first customers. They were very open-minded about GPU computing back in 2007.

NVIDIA: How does CUDA help you?
Francois: Because we are pushing the capabilities of the GPU to the max, we rely on the CUDA C environment. Moreover, we appreciate being part of the CUDA ecosystem. Our company has a global GPU approach to technology, whether we are introducing algorithms for reducing X-ray dosages or delivering better images for nanotechnology researchers.

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