So I'm using a relatively new optimization method to find the best set of parameters to match the observations with our mathematical models of pulsating white dwarf stars; and there are so many models to run that I need a lot of computing power, so I linked a bunch of Pentium-II systems together to do the job. But what do I hope to learn?

Well, the source of energy for regular stars like our Sun is nuclear fusion. This is the `other' kind of nuclear energy that does not produce any dangerous radio-active waste. We have a good idea of how it works to power stars, but the process requires extremely high temperatures, and so it is difficult to reproduce (in a controlled way) in laboratories on Earth. In fact, it has never been done. But scientists have been working on it for several decades. If we could master nuclear fusion, it would provide an essentially inexhaustible source of clean energy.

To help ensure that we properly understand how stars work, it is useful to look at the `ashes' of the nuclear fusion. Those ashes are locked in the white dwarf stars, and asteroseismology allows us to peer down inside and probe around. But our understanding can only be as good as our models, so it is important both to make sure that we find the absolute `best' answer, and to figure out what limitations are imposed simply by using the models we use. It's only one piece of the puzzle, but it's a place to start.

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