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December 8, 2010

Were you wishing you could have been at CloudCom 2010 last week?

We can’t transport you back in time, but thanks to the IEEE Computer Society, you do have the opportunity to watch many of the presentations you missed.

December 1, 2010

Some kids can make anything cute, and these ones are no exception.

November 17, 2010

Feature - The 1970s in the 21st century: synthesized music returns (via parallel processing)

This Arp 2500 analog modular synthesizer from 1971 had hundreds of inputs and outputs for control of the synthesis processes. Image courtesy of

Curtis Roads is a professor, vice chair, and graduate advisor in media arts and technology, with a joint appointment in music at the University of California at Santa Barbara. He also was the editor of the Computer Music Journal (published by MIT Press), and co-founded the International Computer Music Association. He is often a featured speaker at conferences such as Supercomputing. 
Music is an interactive, concurrent process. A note or a chord sounds, then is replaced, gradually or sharply, softly or powerfully, by the next one. For electronically produced or enhanced music, real-time technical advances are critical to continued progress and exploration. In the 1970s, I fondly remember learning my first parallel

November 17, 2010

Image of the Week - Elegance of darkness When galaxies collide. Original courtesy Argonne National Laboratory What you see is the collision of two galaxies over billions of years, albeit virtually. As physicists at CERN investigate the smallest particles in the universe, US scientists are studying the behavior of the largest cosmic structures in existence. A team at the University of Chicago Flash Center and the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics used an Argonne National Laboratory Supercomputer to identify elusive dark matter. The researchers simulated the motion and collision of galactic clusters — some of the largest structures in the universe — to infer dark matter’s influence, as it cannot be observed directly. Dark matter greatly influences gas and galaxies over trillions of light years.  Furthermore, these collisions more accurately predict the interaction of both normal and dark matter (it is thought dark matter constitu

November 10, 2010

Video of the week - NASA goes to the clouds

Lately, the media has been flooded with stories about NASA and cloud computing.
Some have been about how the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at NASA is using Amazon's cloud services to plan the Mars Rover's daily activities.
More, however, have been about the impending open source release of NASA’s Nebula Cloud Computing Platform.
That’s why we decided to feature two videos about Nebula as our videos of the week. Watch them to learn more about Nebula and computing at NASA.
—Miriam Boon, iSGTW

November 3, 2010

Feature - Ultra-fast networks: The Final Frontier A network researcher in awe of the billions of dark matter particles simulated on 15 ultra-high definition monitors. Image courtesy Freek Dijkstra Researchers from Holland have demonstrated a network infrastructure that could potentially help scientists save time and even transform the movie business. This could be done without the need for large computer clusters or grids, just off-the-shelf hardware components combined with human ingenuity and one of the world’s fastest research networks. The team were from SARA, a Dutch supercomputing and e-science support center. Threshold The SARA researchers wanted to show the practicalities of streaming video between two institutions (from SARA, Amsterdam to CERN, Geneva) at 40Gb/second (5GB/s). This link, if successful, would be 16 times faster than the TEIN3 network, which streamed Malaysian dancers over 9,000 kilometers away to a live orchestra performance in Stockholm at 2.5 Gb/s. Th

November 3, 2010

Image of the Week - Google Street View lands in Antarctica

The above picture is of Half Moon Island in the South Shetlands. You can see a 360 degree panoramic view of the island by pressing the arrows in the top-left hand corner of the picture. It has a certain ‘cool’ factor in more ways than one, don’t you think?
Original courtesy Brian McClendon, vice president of engineering, for Google Earth and Maps.

The ubiquity of Google knows no bounds. Their Street View service, first introduced in 2007, with its 360-degree panoramic street-level images has now captured views of our planet’s most southern-most continent – Antarctica.
Brian McClendon, vice president of engineering for Google Earth and Maps, took the Street View images or ‘vacation photos’ while travelling to Antarctica on a cruise ship. More information about his trip can be found here.

November 3, 2010


Link of the Week: Physics for Poets

Woodblock print of ‘The Sea off Satta,’ from ‘36 Views of Mount Fuji’ by Hiroshige Utagawa. Image courtesy Wikipedia under Creative Commons license

At the scifaiku website, fans of science fiction can express their passion for time travel, spaceships and aliens in haiku.
The rules of this ancient Japanese poetic form are relatively simple: each poem is composed of a maximum of three lines, with 5 syllables on the first line, 7 on the next, and 5 on the last.
But while traditional haiku make a reference to nature; “scifaiku” call for a science fiction reference, such as:
Asteroids collidewithout a sound . . . We maneuver between fragments.
It seemed unfair that science fiction fans should have all the fun, so we tried our hands at this art, focusing on the theme of computing. This can be a challenge, given the distressing number of syllables in phrases such as “distributed computing infrastructur

October 27, 2010

Image of the Week - Why scientific computing does not compute

Source: G. Wilson. With permission of Nature Publishing Group.

This image appeared in a recent Nature News article entitled “Computational news: ...Error ...why scientific programming does not compute.”
The article presents a well-supported perspective on what is wrong with the way scientific software is created. This image presents statistics from a survey of nearly 2000 researchers in which they answered questions about their software development activities and knowledge.
You can see the original article here.
—Miriam Boon, iSGTW

October 20, 2010


Link of the Week - Nobel Prize follows Ig Nobel

Artist's impression of a graphene transistor. Image courtesy physorg

A first has just occurred in the world of Nobel Prize awards: Andre Geim, a Russian-born physicist, who was previously awarded an Ig Nobel for using magnets to levitate a frog, received a Nobel Prize in Physics for his experiments on a 2-D substance called ‘graphene.’ Graphene, which is one-atom thick and entirely made from carbon, comes from the ‘lead’ in a pencil.
The substance is made up of a handful of atoms in a honeycomb lattice, akin to atomic scale chicken wire. At this scale,  its properties truly shine as Andre and his team discovered that the material conducts electricity 100 times faster than silicon. Possible future applications of this material could be for the creation of ultra-fast transistors for the next generation of computers, electronics, smart displays and quantum-dot computers.

October 13, 2010

Image of the week - A better supernova model

This image shows a 3D time series of the development and expansion of the supernova shock. Time is increasing as you move from left to right. The purple surface is an isocontour of entropy while the blue/green surface is an isocontour of density.
Image by Jason Nordhaus and Adam Burrows, Princeton University. Image and caption courtesy of NERSC.

When large stars die out and collapse, they explode, creating a supernova. But when scientists attempted to simulate this process, they got a “fizzle” instead of a “bang.” Until now, scientists simply assumed that there is something fundamental about the physics of supernovae that we didn't understand.
Now scientists may have cracked the problem by using a new approach to create computer simulations of supernovae.
“The new simulations are based on the idea that the collapsing star itself is not sphere-like, but distinctly asymmetrical and affected by a host of inst

October 6, 2010

Image of the Week - Death of a star

Ever wonder what the collapse of an inspiralling neutron-star binary looks like? Now you can see one rendtion, in this vizualization. For more information, click here.
Copyright: Ralf Kähler (Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics/Zuse Institute Berlin) Numerical Simulation: Bruno Giacomazzo, Luciano Rezzolla (Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics). Used with permission.

September 29, 2010

Video of the Week - A slice of the Citizen Cyberscience Summit

GridCast at CCS

Francois Grey
Catherine Gater
Becky Parker
Mark McAndrew
Hanny Van Arkel
Peter Amoako Yirenkyi

Earlier this month, citizens and scientists gathered for the London Citizen Cyberscience Summit. The event included content on a wide variety of topics, and the e-ScienceCast team (formerly known as GridCast) was there to see the action unfold. Watch interviews with a variety of attendees in this week's videos of the week.

September 22, 2010

EGI Video Answers All

(Click on image above to go to YouTube video.) Original courtesy BELIEF-II

Do you still find yourself trying to get a better sense of EGI and, even after the Technical Forum last week?
Then check out this video from the BELIEF-II project.

September 15, 2010

Image of the Week - Supercomputing between the lines

Left: This is just one of many images you’ll find inside the Supercomputing Coloring Book. Image courtesy of NCSA.Right: According to the Supercomputing Coloring Book, researchers use supercomputers to simulate the folding and unfolding of proteins — like this tryptophan cage protein — in an effort to understand how folding errors can cause diseases. Image copyright Carlos Simmerling, 2006.

Supercomputers are far from child’s toys, but that doesn’t mean children can't appreciate them.That's just one of many reasons why the National Center for Supercomputing Applications put together their Supercomputing Coloring Book.“I think it does a few things well,” said Bill Bell, division director of public affairs at NCSA. “It grabs your attention. It communicates that just because the concepts are complicated doesn’t mean they have to be intimidating. And it introduces people to someth

September 8, 2010

iSGTW in Amsterdam

Image courtesy GridTalk. (Click on image for large, PDF version)

Coming to you from Amsterdam is the EGI Technical Forum, the first event after taking over the reins from EGEE. Thanks to GridTalk’s GridCast, you can now get (nearly) the same experience as those attending in person.You will be able to get the latest via twitter, see and hear events by podcast, and enjoy the highlights .Held from 14- to 17- September, this event promises to showcase grid technologies and connect developers, users and newcomers to distributed computing. The major theme of the meeting, achieved through technical sessions, a demonstration and exhibition area, networking space and events, will be to establish collaborations between the new and the current European Distributed Computing Infrastructure projects to meet the needs and requirements of the research community.
Can’t make it in person? With GridCast, you can be there in virtual form to catch the latest &mdas

September 1, 2010

Video of the Week - destroys server huggers' equipment

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August 25, 2010


Image of the Week: Rubik’s Cube question solved?

Image courtesy stock.exchng

Articles in the technology press say that researchers have solved the age-old question of the minimum number of moves needed to unscramble a Rubik’s Cube. This minimum has jokingly been referred to as “God’s number.”The answer? 20 moves or less.Which sounds an awful lot like the answer to Douglas Adams’ science fiction series The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, in which the answer to life, the universe and everything is . . . 42.Hmmm.One thing we're curious about is how the researchers came up with the answer. According to a BBC interview with one of the researchers, “. . . the team had planned to process the batches on a supercomputer. ‘Then Google stepped forward and offered to run the computation,’ he said. ‘We still don't know what machinery they used.’ ”And in both its US and UK editions, Wired said that Google do

August 18, 2010

Relativistic reference frames speed simulations

This simulation was conducted on Franklin at the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center, NERSC, at Berkeley Lab. Image courtesy of Mori et. al.

Even on a supercomputer, simulating the next generation of laser-plasma accelerators would take months. Luckily, by solving an old problem to create a new way to model these accelerators, an international group of researchers has cut the computation time by a factor of at least 100.
Laser-plasma accelerators shoot powerful laser pulses into a cloud of plasma, creating a wave that electrons can "surf" to accelerate more rapidly than in traditional accelerators. Normally, computer models consider this problem from the experimenter's reference frame, in which the plasma is more or less stationary and the laser is traveling at the speed of light.
This team, jointly led by Warren Mori at the University of California at Los Angeles and Luis Silva at the Instituto Superior Tecnico in

August 11, 2010

Video of the week - Learning with multi-touch

Multi-touch technology has been around longer than you might think; experimental implementations have been surfacing since the early 1980s. This technology really hit the big time, however, when Apple released the first iPod Touch.
In 2008, the Renaissance Computing Institute at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill unveiled a multi-touch table that has since become an invaluable tool in the scientific visualization toolbox. At the same time, learning scientists, computer scientists, and psychologists from Virginia Tech and the University of Chicago formed itemL – interactive technologies for embodied mathematics Learning – and began investigating how young children (three to eight-years-old) interact with a multi-touch play table.
“We are collecting extensive data on the commercially available SMART Table while developing our own technology, TanTab,” explained Michael Evans, assistant professor of learning science and technologies at Vir

August 4, 2010

Image of the Week - Mapping Science

This image, entitled Internet Splat Map, was produced in 2009 by William Cheswick and Ben Worthen. It was produced by sending a large number of IP packets out randomly across the network. Each packet is designed to self-destruct after a set amount of time; when it does, the packet failure notice it returns describes the path it took. The visualization of the resulting data was created using place and route software from the semiconductor industry.
These maps can be used to find security gaps or monitor the networks during wartime bombing raids.
BBN (early ARPANET) is the random scatter of green in the middle. Sprint is the organized star topology in purple near the top. AOL is a gray disconnected island in the lower center. There is little correlation between this network connectivity graph and physical geography, except for a clustering of Pacific Rim connectivity. To see a similar map with labels, download the map PDF here.
Image courtesy of William Ch

July 28, 2010

Image of the Week - What the Planck Telescope found

A new view of the Milky Way. (Click on image to enlarge.) Image courtesy European Space Agency

Last summer, iSGTW did a story on the launch of the European Space Agency’s Planck Telescope into orbit. (See Countdown! World’s most sophisticated thermometer blasts off into space). Their goal was to survey the “oldest light” in the cosmos.After six months of collecting data and assembling a map, the 700-million euro observatory created the first full-sky image. It shows what is visible beyond Earth, on instruments sensitive to light at wavelengths much longer than human beings can see.In the foreground are large segments of our own galaxy, the Milky Way. The bright horizontal line running the full width of the picture is the galactic plane, in which the sun and Earth reside. Above and below the galactic plane are streamers of cold dust, thousands of light-years long.“It's a spectacular picture; it’s

July 21, 2010

Image of the Week - Airbending with GPUs

Zade Rosenthal/Industrial Light & Magic Nicola Peltz plays Katara in the Paramount Pictures/Nickelodeon Movies adventure, “The Last Airbender.” Copyright (C) 2010 Paramount Pictures Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

What do whirling clouds, smoke, and ocean mist have in common with fire? They were all simulated using Plume, Industrial Light & Magic’s proprietary fluid simulation system.
The artistic process is marked by repeated review and revision. But rendering graphics takes time, and if you have to wait hours to review and revise your work, it’s hard to achieve artistic excellence.
To speed things up, ILM sped their computations up with GPUs. The NVIDIA press release states:

Central to achieving many of these sequences was the use of a tool created by ILM called Plume. Plume is both a fluid simulation system and a GPU-based renderer that utilizes the NVIDIA® CUDA™ parallel computing architectu

July 14, 2010

Image of the Week: Digital, in both senses of the word

Information at your fingertips — and between them. Image courtesy Department of Anthropology, National Taiwan University

Jieh Hsiang, director of the Research Center of Digital Humanities at the National Taiwan University, likes to draw an important distinction between the goal of digital archives, which is to store information, and that of digital humanities, which is to discover new research issues buried in the digits. As an example, he points to studies of old land deeds in Taiwan. His research center has recovered over 32,000 such land deeds from before 1900. With the right tools, it is possible to extract from them insights into the social and economic evolution of the time, and even gleen the state of race relationships between the aboriginal Taiwanese and Chinese originating from the mainland at that time. The land deed pictured here has information stored between the digits in a quite literal sense. Chinese charac

July 7, 2010

Image of the week - iPlant's DNA Subway

Developed by iPlant staff at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory’s Dolan DNA Learning Center (DNALC), DNA Subway presents complex bioinformatics and visualization tools – predominantly open-source software – in an intuitive and appealing interface.

Our regular readers may recall reading about iPlant, the international collaborative project that aims to solve the big questions of plant biology.
This spring, iPlant released beta versions of some of the planned computational environments and software frameworks. According to a press release from the Texas Advanced Computing Center, the DNA Subway, the Discovery Environment, and the Tree of Life visualization tool allow researchers at all levels to take advantage of the national cyberinfrastructure to study plant DNA.
The DNA Subway, pictured above, is the interface through which iPlant users will access a subset of the iPlant tools and data.
To read more about the iPlant beta, pleas