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InTheLoop | 02.08.2010

February 8, 2010

C3 Software Aids in Mapping the Universe

It takes special software to map the universe from noisy data. Scientists in CRD’s Computational Cosmology Center (C3) developed a code called MADmap to do just that for the cosmic microwave background, then posted it on the web for other interested sky mappers. Scientists probing the sky with the PACS instrument aboard the Herschel satellite have adapted MADmap to make spectacular images of the infrared universe. Read more.


NERSC/BES Requirements Workshop This Week

A workshop on Large Scale Computing and Storage Requirements for Basic Energy Sciences will be held tomorrow and Wednesday, February 9–10, in Rockville, MD. This workshop is being organized by the Department of Energy’s Office of Basic Energy Sciences (BES) and Office of Advanced Scientific Computing Research (ASCR) to elucidate computing requirements for high energy physics research at NERSC. These requirements will serve as input to the NERSC planning processes for systems and support, and will help ensure that NERSC continues to provide world-class support for scientific discovery to DOE scientists and their collaborators.

Richard Gerber and Harvey Wasserman are the NERSC organizers for the workshop.


Head of Germany’s Jülich Research Center to Visit NERSC, Lab

Prof. Dr. Achim Bachem, director of the Jülich Research Center in Germany, will be touring Berkeley Lab facilities on Thursday, February 11. Bachem, who also currently heads PRACE, the Partnership for Advanced Computing in Europe, will tour the NERSC Center at OSF as part of his visit. For more information about PRACE and Bachem’s views on computing, read an interview conducted by Jon Bashor for the latest issue of SciDAC Review.

Bachem, who will be accompanied by Thorsten Voß, head of the Office of the Board of Directors for the Jülich Center, is in California as a member of a delegation led by the Minister-President (governor) of the German state of North Rhine-Westfalia, where Jülich is located. The entire delegation will pay a short visit to the Lab on Thursday, with a welcome and overview of computing presented by Horst Simon. Bachem is also a member of the NERSC Policy Board and will return for a meeting of the board next month.


Ushizima to Speak at Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute

Daniela Ushizima of the CRD/NERSC Analytics and Visualization Group will be speaking at the Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute in San Francisco at noon on Thursday, February 11. Her talk is titled “Automated retinopathy screening using ocular fundus images.” Here is the abstract:

Retinopathy damages the retina, often with blindness implications and severe vision loss or impairment. Retinopathy screening involves the image analysis of ocular fundus together with clinical information regarding diseases with global influence on the vascular system as hypertension, diabetes and arteriosclerosis. Recently, research in automated image analysis of ocular fundus has reported encouraging results in retinopathy diagnosis. In collaboration with researchers from Optometry Department, University of California, Berkeley, we aim at designing algorithms for telemedicine software capable of screening ocular fundus images for image quality control and lesion identification. The current framework focus on computer vision algorithms, distributed in three modules: vessel segmentation, abnormality identification and classification of lesions. The presentation will discuss algorithms such as watershed and morphological reconstruction applied to segmentation of the vascular system and abnormalities from ocular fundus images, feature extraction of potential lesions and classification.


Wendy Wolfson Tsabba Joins CS Communications Team

Wendy Wolfson Tsabba has joined the Computing Sciences Communications group and will be primarily supporting ESnet. Since 2005 Tsabba has been a freelance writer covering innovation in technology and biomedicine for publications including Chemistry and Biology (a journal of Cell Press) and Nature Biotechnology. She has also contributed to Wired, Science, Bio-IT World, InformationWeek, New Scientist, Red Herring, and the Boston Globe. Prior to that she had a marketing communications and public relations practice in Boston serving technology companies and government agencies such as DARPA. Read more.


UC Berkeley EECS to Hold BEARS 2010 Symposium on Thursday

The Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences Department and the Industrial Relations Office at UC Berkeley will hold the Berkeley EECS Annual Research Symposium (BEARS 2010) on Thursday, February 11, in Sibley Auditorium, Bechtel Engineering Center. The theme will be “From Clouds to Sensors: A Berkeley View.” The program will include an integrated sequence of talks from chips and mobile devices to cloud computing. Advance registration is required to attend this event.


This Week’s Computing Sciences Seminars

A Natural-Language-Based Approach to System Modeling—From the Use of Numbers to the Use of Words
Tuesday, February 9, 4:00–5:00 pm, 540 Cory Hall, UC Berkeley
Lotfi A. Zadeh, EECS, UC Berkeley

In science and engineering it is traditional to describe a model, M(S), of a system, S, in a mathematical language in which the objects of computation are numbers, functions, relations, equations, etc. The predominant modeling language is the language of differential equations. Natural languages are rich but they are not employed as modeling languages because they lack precision. Precision carries a cost. If there is a tolerance for imprecision, exploit it by using precisiated words in place of numbers. Through the use of words, a system described by a collection of differential equations is summarized as a collection of linguistic if-then rules in which the antecedent and consequent are generalized constraints.

Old and New Physics at the Terascale
Thursday, February 11, 4:00–5:00 pm, 50A-5132
Carola Berger, MIT

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) has finally begun operations in search for the mechanism of electroweak symmetry breaking and new physics. However, in the hadronic environment of the LHC, most events have high-multiplicity final states and very complex signatures. Searching for the Higgs or new physics can be compared to looking for a needle in a gigantic haystack, to invoke an often-used cliche. As I will illustrate, this analogy is somewhat flawed, because the properties of the new physics needle may not conform to standard expectations. A successful search strategy will therefore involve removal of as much of the haystack as possible, which necessitates precise knowledge of the Standard Model background.


Link of the Week: The Chess Master and the Computer

“The Chess Master and the Computer” by Garry Kasparov in the New York Review of Books is ostensibly a review of the book Chess Metaphors: Artificial Intelligence and the Human Mind by Diego Rasskin-Gutman, but it’s really just an excuse for Kasparov to express his considerable opinions on the topic. A few choice quotes:

Deep Blue was only intelligent the way your programmable alarm clock is intelligent. Not that losing to a $10 million alarm clock made me feel any better….

The number of legal chess positions is 1040, the number of different possible games, 10120. Authors have attempted various ways to convey this immensity, usually based on one of the few fields to regularly employ such exponents, astronomy. In his book Chess Metaphors, Diego Rasskin-Gutman points out that a player looking eight moves ahead is already presented with as many possible games as there are stars in the galaxy. Another staple, a variation of which is also used by Rasskin-Gutman, is to say there are more possible chess games than the number of atoms in the universe. All of these comparisons impress upon the casual observer why brute-force computer calculation can’t solve this ancient board game….

The heavy use of computer analysis has pushed the game itself in new directions. The machine doesn’t care about style or patterns or hundreds of years of established theory…. It is entirely free of prejudice and doctrine and this has contributed to the development of players who are almost as free of dogma as the machines with which they train…. Although we still require a strong measure of intuition and logic to play well, humans today are starting to play more like computers….

Like so much else in our technology-rich and innovation-poor modern world, chess computing has fallen prey to incrementalism and the demands of the market. Brute-force programs play the best chess, so why bother with anything else? Why waste time and money experimenting with new and innovative ideas when we already know what works? Such thinking should horrify anyone worthy of the name of scientist, but it seems, tragically, to be the norm. Our best minds have gone into financial engineering instead of real engineering, with catastrophic results for both sectors.



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.