Why HPC? Weather Prediction is One of the Many Whys

16 April 2012

Inevitably, when I speak about HPC (supercomputing [petaflops and exaflops], visualization systems, Infinite Computing, etc.), I am asked the following question: Why? (i.e. Why as in why do we need so many flops?) My response always starts with “weather forecasting…” with an emphasis on forecasting such things as hurricanes and tornadoes. Accurate storm predictions can save lives.

The following is a headline from the Friday, 13 April 02012, Arizona Republic: Saturday storms ‘life threatening’.

“We’re quite sure tomorrow will be a very busy and dangerous day in terms of large swathes of central and southern plains.” — National Weather Service (NOAA.gov) via the Arizona Republic

Various news sources reported the following.

National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla., which specializes in tornado forecasting, took the unusual step of warning people more than 24 hours in advance of a possible “high-end, life-threatening event.”

The predictions ended up being extremely accurate: Tornadoes hit the midwest part of the United States hard on Saturday and Sunday.

The accuracy of weather forecasting is important because it can save lives. But right now the accuracy is critically important because of the need to establish trust among the populous.

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Three Tweets by @compufoo

25 October 2010

On 25 October 02010, the @compufoo Twitter account had 515 tweets, 21 followers, and was following zero.

The @compufoo Twitter account was setup to support my “Computer Science For Non-CS Majors” class. I asked the students to follow @compufoo, but I did not require them to do so. More than half of the students were not Twitter users; consequently, only about half of the class started following @compufoo.

The following are the last three tweets tweeted by @compufoo prior to writing this blog posting.

[02010.10.25] Computing students should follow Dan Reed. RT @HPCDan HPC and the Excluded Middle http://bit.ly/dj0B8s

Dan Reed is a supercomputing guru. In 02006, President George W. Bush appointed Dan Reed to the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST).

[02010.10.25]“Dawn of a New Day” by Ray Ozzie http://goo.gl/ti6w via @robinwauters & @techcrunch

On 18 October 02010, Ray Ozzie — one of the creators of Lotus Notes — stepped down as Microsoft’s Chief Software Architect.

[02010.10.23]What will the Internet look like in 10 years? http://www.isoc.org/tools/blogs/scenarios/

The Internet Society (ISOC.org) is a non-profit that was founded in 01992 to “provide leadership in Internet related standards, education, and policy.”


From 140 to 1,759,000,000,000,000

2 December 2009

This semester I have been hammering away at two themes: Twitter and High-Performance Computing.

Twitter is a micro-blogging service that limits postings (i.e. tweets) to a maximum of 140 characters.

During November 02009, TOP500 issued its list of the world’s 500 fastest supercomputers and Jaguar was number at 1.759 petaflops (i.e. 1759 trillion floating-point operations per second).

The lecture notes for weeks 13 (02009.11.16) and 15 (02009.12.01) contained the following tweets.

The Global Language Monitor names “Twitter” the top word of 2009.

I’ve been telling students that I am in the process of learning about Twitter. For me, as of 02009.12.01, the power of Twitter is in who I follow.

President Obama visited China and he had Twitter on his mind.

“First of all, let me say that I have never used Twitter.”~Obama to Chinese

I don’t know why Obama had to let the Chinese in on the fact that had never tweeted.

“I’m a big supporter of not restricting Internet use, Internet access, other information technologies like Twitter.”~Obama to Chinese

Obama referred to Twitter as a form of “information technology” and these days I call this 21st century Informatics. In a nutshell, 21st century Informatics is supercomputer-based data processing.

Al Gore was the keynote speaker at the 21st annual SC conference. SC is an “international conference on High Performance Computing (HPC), networking, storage and analysis.”

At SC09, Al Gore says supercomputing can be killer app in climate change.

Gore believes high-performance computing systems, which include high-performance visualization systems, will help convince the world that climate change is a real problem. Gore might be wise to expect the unexpected.

“Supercomputing has given us the most powerful tool in the history of civilization.”~Al Gore at SC09

A bold statement by Gore and only time will tell if he is correct.

By the way, Steve Wozniak once said, “Never trust a computer you can’t throw out a window.”