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InTheLoop | 12.19.2005

The Weekly Electronic Newsletter for Berkeley Lab Computing Sciences Employees

December 19, 2005

DSD's Keith Beattie Wrapping Up Three Weeks in Antarctica

During a time of the year when many people have turned their attention to activities at the North Pole, Keith Beattie of the Distributed Systems Department has been focused on the IceCube project at the South Pole (http://icecube.wisc.edu/). Keith, a software engineer who has been working on testing the data acquisition software for IceCube, will wrap up his three-week stint at the Antarctica site on Dec. 21—just in time to spend Christmas on the beach in Australia. Keith has posted an album of photos at http://www.kodakgallery.com/ShareLandingReg.jsp?Uc=18sjlk2j.5gci8a13&Uy=sgyewv&Upost_signin=
. (Click on “Create an account later” to view the photos without registering.)

Here's Keith's description of his adventure to date:
“The trip down here is for the IceCube project. There are plenty of people at LBL would could fill you in on the details of the project but briefly, we are building a neutrino telescope which looks up through the Earth for neutrinos coming down from the North—using the Earth itself to filter out other charged particles. We are drilling holes down into the clear dark ice here where strings of Digital Optical Modules (DOMs, or 'eyeballs') will look for protons thrown off from chance collisions of neutrinos with the ice. The holes are 2.5 km deep, 60 DOMs per string (spaced out over the lowest 1 km) and eventually, 80 strings. It is a very large multi-year project. I'm working on the Data Acquisition software system which runs on a cluster of compute nodes here running trigger algorithms detecting events and filtering them from noise, then shipping north over a relatively limited satellite uplink. In the north further processing of the data will reconstruct the events to determine what was seen by the telescope.

“Getting to and being at the South Pole is quite an experience. After flying to Christchurch, NZ, I took an Air Force C-130s to McMurdo station (on the coast of Antarctica) and then another from McMurdo to the Pole. A 9.5 hour flight, then a 3.5 hour flight. Before leaving Christchurch we all visit the CDC (Clothing Distribution Center) where they outfit you with your ECW (Extreme Cold Weather clothes). I think that when you combine computer people with military people you could have entire conversations comprised entirely of acronyms.

“The flights down are amazing in seeing the terrain you fly over and then into. When we landed at the pole it was -30 degrees F with a wind chill of something like -60 F. The ECW is absolutely needed and quite sufficient. They issue different sets of clothing based on your job, and since I'm not spending much time outside I've got somewhat different clothes than the people building and operating the drill (which in itself is an amazing feat of engineering). Still, having to walk to and from my Jamesway (5 minute walk to where I sleep) or having to get up to visit the bathroom in the middle of the 'night' requires suiting up (though you try to get away with less and less each time).

“Speaking of night, the sun never sets here in the summer—it just revolves around your head each day. That though hasn't been as disorienting to me as I thought. Even the cold you can get used to, to some extent. What is more challenging to adjust to is the altitude. The South Pole is at an elevation of 9,306 feet (because we are sitting atop close to 2 miles of ice) but due to the even thinner air at the poles, the effective elevation hovers around 10,000 feet based on the barometric pressure. This means you are sucking air for about 2-3 days when you arrive. Altitude sickness is something everyone needs to look out for. Taking it easy for the first few days is required for everyone.

“For me at least the most difficult thing to adjust to has been the low, low humidity. The air is so dry here you need to guzzle water nearly constantly to stay hydrated. The relative humidity is about 50 percent, but that is in cold, cold air. Having no meteorological background whatsoever, I've proposed to the met. people (who happen to sit nearby) a new humidity factor (akin to wind chill in describing what you experience) where you measure your relative humidity based on room temperature. By this measure we've got about 0.5 percent indoor relative humidity—which is what it feels like.

“So right now, I'm told, the air is about as warm and thick as it ever gets here: -0.9 F, Wind 5.3 knots (Windchill -13.1 F), Barometer 702.4 mb (9794 ft). There were people outside playing rugby earlier today. Crazy Kiwis (New Zealanders). Speaking of the people, they are great. I'm only here for three weeks, leaving here on the 21st (and then spending Christmas on the beach in Sydney!) Even the winter-overs (people who work here over the winter months when you can't leave), though a 'special breed,' are good to work with. There is a real sense of camaraderie here, though 'ice time' is how you separate the hardened folk from short-timers like me. The food here also deserves mention, I wish we could get some of these cooks in our LBL cafeteria!”

Kim Magbie Is New Administrator for CRD

Kim Magbie has joined Computing Sciences as administrator for Juan Meza, head of the High Performance Computational Research Department, Victor Markowitz, head of the Biological Data Management and Technology Center, and David Bailey, chief technologist for CRD.

Kim began working at the lab nine years ago, starting out at the Center for Science and Engineering Education (CSEE), where she provided support for college and university programs. Four years later, Kim transferred to the Director's Office, where she worked as the receptionist in the main office. Within a short period of time, Kim took over the responsibility of planning meetings and events for the Directorate, a function that she continued to perform until her move to Computing Sciences.

Outside of work, Kim has her hands full raising two boys, ages 6 and 13. She juggles their homework and busy schedules, while remaining involved in their school, and contributing many of her weekends towards assisting in projects.

CRD's Sherry Li Appointed Associate Editor of SIAM Scientific Computing Journal

Sherry Li, a member of the Scientific Computing Group in the Computational Research Division and an expert in sparse matrix computation, has been appointed as an Associate Editor of the SIAM Journal on Scientific Computing. This is a three-year appointment, ending in December 2008.

As an associate editor, Sherry will review submitted papers and decide whether to accept them for consideration. She will also be responsible for finding reviewers to review the papers and then, based on the reviewers' feedback, determine whether the paper merits publication.

The SIAM Journal on Scientific Computing contains research articles on numerical methods and techniques for scientific computation. Papers address computational issues relevant to the solution of scientific or engineering problems and generally include computational results demonstrating the effectiveness of the proposed techniques.

Reminder: Shut Down Computers, Peripherals Before Leaving for Holiday Break

Lab computers are targeted more frequently over holidays than at any other time. Please shut down your computer unless it is absolutely necessary that it stay running. If you must keep it running, be sure to update the security patches so that it does not fall prey to attacks. If you think your system has been attacked, contact the Computer Protection Program. Those with computer security-related emergencies can call x7770.

Another Reminder: Electrical Work to Require Power Shutdown in Bldg. 50 Complex

There will be a planned four-day power outage in the Bldg. 50 complex during the Holiday Shutdown at the end of December. Beginning at 7 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 27, power will be shut off to Bldgs 50A, C and E to facilitate an electrical system upgrade, which is scheduled to end at 10 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 28. Power for Bldg. 50B, D and F will then be shut off starting at 7 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 29, and continuing until 10 p.m. Friday, Dec. 30. Emergency power will be supplied during the shutdowns, and power is also expected to be maintained to the computer room in 50B-1275.

NERSC Posts Position for Benchmark Analyst

NERSC's High Performance Computing Access Department has recently posted an opening for a benchmark analyst. This position will be responsible for the ongoing management and augmentation of benchmarks NERSC uses to evaluate advanced high performance computing architectures and systems. The benchmark analyst will assist NERSC in evaluating existing and emerging HPC systems using a combination of full scale application benchmarks and microbenchmarks, and performance models. The posting can be found at http://www.lbl.gov/CS/Careers/OpenPositions/NE18523.html.

About Computing Sciences at Berkeley Lab

The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) Computing Sciences organization provides the computing and networking resources and expertise critical to advancing the Department of Energy's research missions: developing new energy sources, improving energy efficiency, developing new materials and increasing our understanding of ourselves, our world and our universe.

ESnet, the Energy Sciences Network, provides the high-bandwidth, reliable connections that link scientists at 40 DOE research sites to each other and to experimental facilities and supercomputing centers around the country. The National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC) powers the discoveries of 6,000 scientists at national laboratories and universities, including those at Berkeley Lab's Computational Research Division (CRD). CRD conducts research and development in mathematical modeling and simulation, algorithm design, data storage, management and analysis, computer system architecture and high-performance software implementation. NERSC and ESnet are DOE Office of Science User Facilities.

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory addresses the world's most urgent scientific challenges by advancing sustainable energy, protecting human health, creating new materials, and revealing the origin and fate of the universe. Founded in 1931, Berkeley Lab's scientific expertise has been recognized with 13 Nobel prizes. The University of California manages Berkeley Lab for the DOE’s Office of Science.

DOE’s Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit science.energy.gov.