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InTheLoop | 06.19.2006

The weekly electronic newsletter for Berkeley Lab Computing Sciences employees

June 19, 2006

David Bailey's Contribution to “The Simpsons” Noted in Science News Column

While David Bailey's research into the digits of pi is well known, a little-known factoid resulting from this work has come to light in the June 10 online edition of Science News. The column by Erica Karreich delves into the role of mathematics in “The Simpsons” TV show. It turns out that some of the show's writers have degrees in math, science and computer science, and have worked hundreds of math jokes into the show since it debuted in 1989.

According to the column, in one episode, "Kwik-E-Mart proprietor Apu brags that he can recite pi to 40,000 decimal places. ‘The last digit is 1,' he announces. To get that detail right, the Simpsons writing team faxed a query to NASA, where mathematician David Bailey obliged with the digit in question."

David worked at NASA Ames from 1984 to 1998, when he joined LBNL.

The complete "Springfield Theory" column can be read at http://www.sciencenews.org/articles/20060610/bob8.asp. To see a photocopy of the actual fax sent by Fox TV requesting the 40,000th digit of pi, go to http://crd.lbl.gov/~dhbailey/pi/simpson-pi2.pdf.

CRD's Kathy Yelick Named One of HPCwire's People to Watch in 2006

Kathy Yelick, leader of the Future Technologies Group in LBNL's Computational Research Division, has been named one of 16 “People to Watch” in 2006 by HPCwire, a weekly newsletter covering high performance computing and networking. In addition to her role at the Lab, Yelick is also an associate professor of computer science at UC Berkeley.

According to HPCwire, Yelick is worth watching “because she's already a proven dynamo based on her contributions to the development of the Titanium language, along with her involvement in the design of Unified Parallel C (UPC)—and she's not finished yet. Her multi-faceted research goal is to develop techniques for obtaining high performance on a wide range of computational platforms, all while easing the programming effort required to achieve high performance. Her current work has shown that global address space languages like UPC and Titanium offer serious opportunities in both productivity and performance, and that these languages can be ubiquitous on parallel machines without excessive investments in compiler technology.”

This year's list, selected by a committee that includes past People to Watch as well as a long list of advisors for the publication, features educators, researchers, and industry veterans who are making significant contributions to the cause of high performance computing. Yelick is one of two women on this year's list. The complete list can be found at http://www.taborcommunications.com/hpcwire/features/people06/index.html.

"This is an exciting time for those of us who work in high-performance computing, because parallel computing is now becoming mainstream, and people outside the field are looking to our community for insight into what works and what doesn't," Yelick said.

Yelick says that away from work, her family is the top priority. Both she and her husband work in the HPC field, and Yelick says that they rely on their kids to keep their lives in balance. Part of that balance is the family's annual getaway to their favorite vacation spot, Yosemite National Park. "I love the beauty and grandeur of Yosemite, and since my kids love it, too, it's an easy spot for an annual vacation."

"Whether it's about soccer from my kids, numerical algorithms from my husband, or new insights into parallelism and performance from my research group, I love learning new things," says Kathy.

Yelick says her first job was making pizzas at Shakey's restaurant in Des Moines, Iowa. "I had wanted a job in the local hardware store, but they weren't convinced that I could handle the register," says the more than capable professor, who has taught courses in computing that would make the act of counting back change look humorously menial.
Yelick says that her colleagues and friends might be surprised to learn that she once rowed on the MIT crew team, including one summer with the first incarnation of a women's lightweight national team.

Prepare to Duck, Cover and Hold on Thursday, June 22

Please note that the Lab's annual duck, cover, and hold exercise will take place at 10 a.m. on Thursday, June 22. This event includes a full building evacuation and emergency radio check. If there is inclement weather, the makeup date has been set for the next day, Friday, June 23. Please visit the Lab's Emergency Preparedness website at http://ehswprod.lbl.gov/ep/index.asp for a host of useful emergency information including duck, cover and hold information at http://ehswprod.lbl.gov/ep/docs_2/dch_drill.pdf.

Deb Agarwal Presents Summer Student Talk: “Next Generation of Cyber Infrastructure”

Computing Sciences' summer students are invited to hear Deb Agarwal, head of the Distributed Systems Department in Berkeley Lab's Computational Research Division, speak on “Next Generation of Cyber Infrastructure to Support Secure Distributed Science” on Tuesday, June 20 in the 50B-4205 Conference Room. Deb's talk is part of the weekly seminar series of the Computing Sciences Summer Student Program. These brown bag events are held on Tuesdays between noon and 1 p.m.

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 7,000-plus 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 Department of Energy 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.