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InTheLoop | 03.15.2010

March 15, 2010

ESnet, Europeans Collaborate to Create Network Research Framework

ESnet is embarking on a cooperative research effort with SURFnet, the national computer network for higher education and research in the Netherlands, and the Scandinavian research network NORDUnet to explore potential synergies between the unique technical knowledge and expertise that each organization has to offer.

As the pace of global collaborations increases, scientists need to reliably exchange massive datasets between research centers. ESnet is working with SURFnet and NORDUnet to explore common methodologies for reserving end-to-end bandwidth to accelerate such data transfers. This capability is essential to provide the high speed connectivity that can support exascale science, which requires data on the petascale and intensive computing to conduct visualization, simulation, modeling and analyses. Read more.

Cheminformatics Symposium to Be Held at ACS National Meeting

Maciej Haranczyk of the Scientific Computing Group in CRD and Berend Smit of the Materials Sciences Division are organizing a symposium “Cheminformatics Tools and High-Throughput Approaches for the Discovery of New Materials” during the American Chemical Society’s National Meeting, March 21–25 in San Francisco. The two-morning symposium (Sunday and Monday, March 21–22) is sponsored by the Chemical Information (CINF) Division of the ACS. The first morning will focus on porous and composite materials; the second morning will be on batteries as well as electronic and optical materials. During the first session, Haranczyk, Smit, and four co-authors will present a paper “Screening tools for identification of porous materials for CO2 separation.”

Here is the symposium abstract:

Most of the green technologies of the future, such as CO2 sequestration, hydrogen production and storage, solar and fuel cells, efficient batteries, rely on new materials. One of the exciting opportunities for discovering necessary materials is a high-throughput approach, where large sets of materials are generated and screened in virtual and/or real experiments. Cheminformatics techniques have been developed to handle data on such immense sets of chemical systems and for years have been successfully applied in the drug discovery field and they are now being adapted for materials discovery. The symposium will be focused on these tools and approaches. The concerned topics include materials library design, novel structural descriptors, virtual screening approaches and applications of simulation techniques to large sets of materials. Contributions from experimental work involving or demanding insights from these approaches are also welcomed.

Happy Belated Pi Day

Yesterday, March 14, was Pi Day, when geeks everywhere celebrated the ratio of the circumference to the diameter of a circle. In an article titled “On Pi Day, one number ‘reeks of mystery,’” CNN’s Elizabeth Landau quotes CRD Chief Technologist David Bailey on the frustrations and benefits of pi.

This Week’s Computing Sciences Seminars

Photons, Qubits and Computers — A Quantum Mechanics Lab on a Chip
Monday, March 15, 4:30 pm, 1 LeConte, UC Berkeley
Andreas Wallraff, ETH Zurich

Using modern micro and nano-fabrication techniques combined with superconducting materials, we realize quantum electronic circuits. We create, store, and manipulate individual microwave photons on-chip. The strong interaction of such photons with superconducting quantum two-level systems allows us to probe fundamental quantum effects such as the Lamb shift and also to develop components for applications in quantum information technology.

The Future of Networking
Tuesday, March 16, 1-2 pm, 400 Cory Hall (Hughes room), UC Berkeley
Scott Shenker, UC Berkeley

This talk contains no mathematics, no detailed designs, and no humility. This talk will instead cover several paradigm shifts in commercial networking that will shape the hardware and software used to build future networks.

Electrical Efficiency Trends of Computation over Time
Friday, March 19, 12:00–1:00 pm, Banatao Aud., Sutardja Dai Hall, UC Berkeley
Jonathan Koomey, LBNL EETD
Live online broadcast: mms://media.citris.berkeley.edu/webcast

This talk will describe long-term trends in the electrical efficiency of computation that enabled the development of laptops and other mobile computing devices. If these trends continue, they presage continued further improvements in battery powered computers, sensors, and controls.

The electrical efficiency of computation (measured in computations per kilowatt-hour, or kWh) grew about as fast as performance for desktop computers starting in 1975, doubling every 1.5 years, a pace of change comparable to that from 1946 to the present. Computations per kWh grew even more rapidly during the vacuum tube computing era and during the transition from tubes to transistors but more slowly during the era of discrete transistors. In 1985, Richard Feynman identified a factor of one hundred billion (10e11) possible theoretical improvement in the electricity used per computation. Since that time computations per kWh have increased by less than five orders of magnitude, leaving significant headroom for continued improvements.

Link of the Week: Algebra in Wonderland

“Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” has often been assumed to be based purely on wild imagination, just fantastical tales for children. But Melanie Bayley, a doctoral candidate in English literature at Oxford, thinks otherwise. In her New York Times article “Algebra in Wonderland,” she suggests the book is actually a satire on new concepts in mid-19th century mathematics — which was, after all, Lewis Carroll/Charles Dodson’s profession. Bayley writes:

In the mid-19th century, mathematics was rapidly blossoming into what it is today: a finely honed language for describing the conceptual relations between things. Dodgson found the radical new math illogical and lacking in intellectual rigor. In “Alice,” he attacked some of the new ideas as nonsense — using a technique familiar from Euclid’s proofs, reductio ad absurdum, where the validity of an idea is tested by taking its premises to their logical extreme….

How do we know for sure that “Alice” was making fun of the new math? The author never explained the symbolism in his story. But Dodgson rarely wrote amusing nonsense for children: his best humor was directed at adults. In addition to the “Alice” stories, he produced two hilarious pamphlets for colleagues, both in the style of mathematical papers, ridiculing life at Oxford.

Without math, “Alice” might have been more like Dodgson’s later book, “Sylvie and Bruno” — a dull and sentimental fairy tale. Math gave “Alice” a darker side, and made it the kind of puzzle that could entertain people of every age, for centuries.

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.