When it comes to simulation, no project is too big for NASA’s supercomputing team. Recent efforts have included modeling of the Milky Way galaxy, examination of the world’s oceans, and simulation of the birth of the universe.
”We solve problems across all areas of NASA -- aerospace, earth science, and space science,” Bryan Biegel, deputy of NASA’s Advanced Supercomputing Division at NASA Ames, told Design News. “And the most powerful tool we can use to advance our knowledge is high-fidelity modeling.”
Indeed, the modeling that takes place at NASA Ames could be stoically described “high fidelity.” Using the agency’s biggest supercomputer, Pleiades, scientists have a stunning 162,496 Intel Xeon processor cores at their disposal, rated at 2.88 quadrillion floating point operations per second. To put it another way, the computer’s speed is such that a man punching in an operation per second on a calculator would take about 90 million years to accomplish what Pleiades can do in a single second.
The speed would be impressive enough by itself, but NASA also demonstrates the results of its simulations on a so-called “hyperwall,” which can read data directly from Pleiades file system over an InfiniBand connection. Hyperwall-2, the most recent embodiment of the technology, is said to be the world’s highest-resolution scientific visualization environment. Consisting of 128 screens, the 23 ft x 10 ft wall of displays is capable of rendering a quarter-billion pixel graphics.
The numbers are, in a word, overwhelming, and so are the results. During Design News’ recent tour inside NASA Ames (thanks to the sponsorship of Littelfuse Inc.), the agency’s supercomputing team demonstrated its stunning computing power. Using the hyperwall, it provided a visual depiction of NASA’s heavy lift launch vehicle, which will one day be “the most powerful rocket that mankind has produced.” The agency also showed us a simulation of the birth of universe, the evolution of the Milky Way, and the heat flow of the world’s oceans.
Check out this video, as we provide a glimpse of those simulations -- part of NASA’s effort to advance the state of human knowledge.
There are four things shown in this video: 1. Simulation of launch of NASA heavy lift vehicle. 2. Simulation of flow of world's oceans. 3. Simulation of birth of the universe (notice the clock counting down from 13 billion years to one). 4. Flow of air around helicopter rotor.
I had the same reaction. With all the money and technology they have access to, the average sports venue has better looking large scale video. I would have thought they could have gotten the joints between the monitors much smaller.
Nice article on the power of computing that man has designed, built, and programmed. One wonders why the human brain continues to process in a uniquely human way that converts an overload of sensory inputs into a coherent existance. And yet, the super computer can beat us in Jeapordy, compute our beginnings, and provide a visual simulation of a heavy vehicle launch. However, one has to keep all this in perspective, the supercomputer has an OFF switch (at least all the Skynet people hope so).
In all this, our brains came about by evolutionary chance mutations? Wonder if the supercomputer could calculate the odds of a human evolutionary path using probabilities?
Thanks for covering this; it's really cool stuff, Rob. I have written about some of the super-computer simulations and it's truly amazing. It's good to see NASA remains the innovator it always has been as an agency and continues to demonstrate to the commercial sector some of the latest and greatest technology, as well as show us more of the world and universe around us!
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