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.
Yes, Ann! Nice to meet another one. :) I think it's important as humans to have an open mind but as journalists I think to be open to all possibilities in many aspects of life is also a good quality. And especially as science and technology journalists who are faced with logical experimentation in the work we cover but also have the responsibility to look at this research from different angles and not have too narrow a view. I am sure there are more of us out there. :)
Yes, Ann, I feel exactly the same way. There is room to be both scientifically minded and spiritually minded if one feels so inclined to be that way. Or you can choose one or the other if that's your thing. Personally, I try to keep my mind open as possible for "both science and other ways of observing," as you put it...sounds like you are the same!
Glad you liked it, Elizabeth. My universe has room for both science and other ways of observing. I try not to combine them or get them mixed up. I like your phrasing "miracles don't occur in machines."
That is a great cartoon to exemplify this idea, Ann! I am not a religious person but while I think there are perhaps things in the human world that may be explained that way, when it comes to science, things are a bit more definitive. miracles don't occur in machines, and robots are machines. Let's not forget that!
Thanks for the vote of confidence, Elizabeth. I've been reading sci-fi since I was 11, and have read the major works that assume robots can somehow acquire self-awareness, or even that it's inevitable that they somehow must acquire it. While these were extremely entertaining, when this assumption is made outside the context of sci-fi it reminds me a bit of the famous "then a miracle occurs" S. Harris cartoon about the scientist's formula for the origin of the universe, which you can see here: http://www.sciencecartoonsplus.com/pages/gallery.php
Really well put, Ann. All this debate over whether robots will actually be human can be a bit frustrating sometimes. There are always things that will separate us--chief among them this self awareness you describe so well. I don't think even the most sophisticated engineering feat every achieved can replicate that and the absolute depth and complexity of human emotions and motivations. Quite an interesting debate, though!
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For industrial control applications, or even a simple assembly line, that machine can go almost 24/7 without a break. But what happens when the task is a little more complex? That’s where the “smart” machine would come in. The smart machine is one that has some simple (or complex in some cases) processing capability to be able to adapt to changing conditions. Such machines are suited for a host of applications, including automotive, aerospace, defense, medical, computers and electronics, telecommunications, consumer goods, and so on. This discussion will examine what’s possible with smart machines, and what tradeoffs need to be made to implement such a solution.