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Supercomputing Hardware

NSF Announces Supercomputer Grant Winners 82

An anonymous reader writes "The NSF has tentatively announced that the Track 1 leadership class supercomputer will be awarded to the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The Track 2 award winner is University of Tennessee-Knoxville and its partners." From the article: "In the first award, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) will receive $208 million over 4.5 years to acquire and make available a petascale computer it calls "Blue Waters," which is 500 times more powerful than today's typical supercomputers. The system is expected to go online in 2011. The second award will fund the deployment and operation of an extremely powerful supercomputer at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville Joint Institute for Computational Science (JICS). The $65 million, 5-year project will include partners at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the Texas Advanced Computing Center, and the National Center for Atmospheric Research."
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NSF Announces Supercomputer Grant Winners

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  • by Entropius ( 188861 ) on Wednesday August 08, 2007 @09:19PM (#20164697)
    My PhD advisor does computational quantum chromodynamics on supercomputers. Quantum chromodynamics is the current theory of the nuclear force. Unfortunately, nobody can actually calculate all that much with it because the math is too hard, but we think it's the right theory because of some symmetry arguments. One of the big challenges at the moment in high-energy theory is to actually see what QCD predicts. Basically the perturbation + renormalization approach that worked so well for quantum electrodynamics doesn't work on QCD because of the "asymptotic freedom" property of quarks: the potential between two quarks grows without bound as you separate them, until it's big enough that you wind up color-polarizing the vacuum and creating a wad of quarks and gluons if you try to separate two quarks.

    Since perturbation theory doesn't work, the only way to get answers out of the thing is to solve the equations numerically on a lattice using Monte Carlo methods. To do this requires, as you probably guessed, Big Fucking Computers.

  • by OldChemist ( 978484 ) on Wednesday August 08, 2007 @09:36PM (#20164819)
    You make a good point. It is now possible to buy a quad core from Dell for about $750 (or less) to play around with. However, as mentioned earlier in this discussion, the work of Klaus Schulten at Illinois is quite instructive. His program NAMD (not another molecular dynamics program) has been designed from the ground up to scale well on many processors. This program does a lot better in this respect than most other md programs out there, although this will no doubt change. So don't despair about this being a second rank research tool. There are some folks poised to take good advantage of it. I do strongly agree with your point that fundamental advances can still be made on small systems.

I was playing poker the other night... with Tarot cards. I got a full house and 4 people died. -- Steven Wright