A day of show and tell for supercomputing

March 23, 2001

A day of show and tell for supercomputing



In an unprecedented exhibition of the vast reaches of the Lab’s supercomputing power, scientists and engineers from nearly every discipline and program displayed their projects throughout the Science Day celebration. Employees, managers, media, and local and state political representatives gathered to hear presentations, tour facilities and examine posters in the daylong celebration of the work done here and how it utilizes LLNL’s unique place in the world of supercomputing.

Director Bruce Tarter kicked off the day’s events by discussing how he and Deputy Director for Science and Technology Jeffrey Wadsworth first decided upon the overall theme.

“We asked ourselves how we’ve had the largest impact on the scientific community in general. The answer was clearly in scientific supercomputing.”

Tarter reflected on an experience as a Cornell graduate student when he heard then-Director Mike May discuss the first black hole calculations done on a computer. “This was the first indication I had heard of science on the computer, not just using computers for calculations at the end of a lab experiment.”

Setting the stage for the speakers to follow, Tarter summed up, “Our contribution to the scientific community in this field is astounding.”

Gen. John Gordon, administrator for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), was on hand to help the Lab celebrate, and spoke of NSSA’s relationship with the scientists who staff its labs.

“This past year has been pretty tough,” Gordon remarked, “here and at other national labs. But all this work we’re hearing about today took place during all these hard times. We’ve all been working hard to create a strong collaborative program with no barriers within NNSA.” (For more of Gordon’s remarks, see story page 1.)

UC Provost and Senior Vice President C. Judson King offered perspectives from the Office of the President.

“This lab is not only managed by UC, but grew out of UC,” King said. “We’re now nearing fifty years of that UC management, and it’s possible that more has happened in the last two years than in the first 48.”

King expressed UC’s pleasure at having the new contract extension, and observed Science Day as the first even to be held under this new contract. He spoke of UC being a force behind the enabling, nurturing and fostering of LLNL science.

At one point, King noted UC’s motto, Fiat Lux (let there be light), and pointed out how this applies to NIF.

King noted that the Lab’s contributions to various UC research projects are less recognized. “The Center for Accelerated Mass Spectrometry has been very useful to numerous UC sources, and the Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics benefits both institutions. It was Livermore optical science that contributed to the recent improvements on the Keck observatory mirrors.

“But it is scientific supercomputing,” said King, “where Livermore leads. This is the most rapidly growing field of science. Just think of what has happened in this field over the course of the last 40, ten or even five years – it’s enormous.”

James Decker, Acting Director of DOE’s Office of Science, stated matter-of-factly that “NNSA and the Office of Science both depend heavily on the national labs to accomplish their missions, and the two offices are closely aligned on many policy issues.”

In support of the these critical national security missions, Decker said, “LLNL has a rich history of significant achievement.”

He reassured the assembled crowd regarding the cooperation between departments, and where that may leave the funding for projects conducted here.

“The Office of Science will continue to fund research at NNSA labs. There are no barriers. We have a win-win-win situation where everyone benefits.

Concerning the issue of Lab security, Decker spoke of the need to protect information, while still providing a “productive environment that allows scientists to collaborate with other scientists, other labs and other countries.

“All DOE labs continue to work together as a system of labs. Neither the financial nor human resources are available to allow the labs to exist in competition. The name of the game is collaboration.”

Throughout the day, the Lab presented its brightest and best results from supercomputing power. Those assembled for the day saw brilliant graphics on topics from Jave Kane’s astrophysics to Starley Thompson’s climate simulation to Dave McCallen’s earthquake predictions, and many others.

Jeffrey Wadsworth summed up the day in three main points: “We need even bigger computers. We still need experimentalists. And we need to talk to Dave McCallen before we decide to buy a house.”

He further commented “the day was very interesting in that it illustrated the Lawrence Livermore way we approach our science. All the talks emphasized solving problems of national importance, than were of scale, and that use multidisciplinary teams to solve those problems. In other words, we are still ‘Lawrence’s Lab.’ ’’