At the movies
by Lynda Lester
SCD found the way to San Jose for SC97, the tenth in a series of conferences sponsored by the Association for Computing Machinery Special Interest Group for Computer Architecture (ACM SIGARCH) and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Computer Society.
Nineteen staff members from SCD represented NCAR at the conference. Their duties ranged from system and administrative support to attending the technical program, demoing 3D movies, introducing new graphics software in support of research, presenting NCAR science, and chairing the SC97 research exhibits.
We're not like the others
"The conference is important for demonstrating that NCAR has a unique niche in the computational cosmos,"said Greg McArthur, head of SCD's Digital Information Group.
"We're not like NCSA and NPACI [the National Center for Supercomputing Applications and the National Partnership for Advanced Computational Infrastructure], which are concerned with supercomputing usage of all ilks. Our work, though it runs the gamut from theory to applications, focuses specifically on the atmospheric and related sciences.
"Science needs gigaflops. At the SC conference, we show hardware and software vendors what we accomplish with their tools. We show them why we need more flops. It's important that we keep in contact with the engineers and programmers driving that end of the curve."
The NCAR research exhibit at SC97 featured several projects that required long-running simulations on NCAR's high-performance computers. These projects included:
- NCAR's Climate Simulation Laboratory's (CSL) simulation of a 125-year buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere
- A revised and terrain-enhanced visualization of a coupled atmosphere-fire model
- Real-time rendering of high-resolution data sets on the HP 2000 Exemplar (SPP2000) X-class computer
- Visualizations of turbulence over mountainous terrain
SC97 also marked the debut of SCD's Visualization Theater. The theater, which is the mobile arm of NCAR's Visualization Laboratory, displays in 3D stereo the visualized output of numerous simulations, including the NCAR Climate Systems Model, geophysical and astrophysical turbulence, mesoscale convective storms, tropical storms, cyclones, windstorms, and global atmospheric chemistry.
Hobnobbing with the geeks
"The SC conference is a good venue for maintaining professional contacts," McArthur said, "and in general, hobnobbing with other supercomputing geeks ... and having a reasonably good time doing it."
For more photos of the conference and NCAR's research exhibit, see "Flash! SC97 in photos."