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InTheLoop | 08.23.2010

August 23, 2010

Listening to Earth Breathe through 500 Towers

It takes a global village to monitor and analyze trends in Earth’s “breathing”—or the exchange of carbon dioxide, water vapor and energy between plants and the planet’s atmosphere. And with the help of database specialists in Berkeley Lab’s CRD, all of this data can now be consolidated for analysis via an online portal called Fluxdata.org. Read more.

Math Group’s Persson, Wilkening Win Early Career Awards

Per-Olof Persson and Jon Wilkening of CRD’s Math Group have won prestigious career awards from the U.S. Air Force and the National Science Foundation, respectively.

Persson, who is also an assistant professor in mathematics at UC Berkeley, was one of 38 researchers who submitted winning research proposals through the Air Force’s Young Investigator Research Program (YIP). He will work on efficient and robust high-order methods for fluid and solid mechanics. Read more about his research. According to the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, the YIP is open to scientists and engineers at research institutions across the U.S. who have received Ph.D. or equivalent degrees in the last five years and show exceptional ability and promise for conducting basic research.

Wilkening, who is also an assistant professor in mathematics at UC Berkeley, received an NSF Faculty Early Career Development Award (CAREER) to conduct research in optimization and continuation methods in fluid mechanics. As part of his five-year award, Wilkening also plans to host students in DOE’s Computational Science Graduate Fellowship program. He was a fellow in the program and completed his Ph.D. in math at UC Berkeley in 2002. Read more about Wilkening’s award.

A Big-Picture Approach to Scientific Data Storage

Increasingly sophisticated supercomputers and networks are changing the way science is done, whether allowing researchers to scrutinize the last 13 billion years of cosmic expansion or to better understand subatomic particles. Meanwhile, advancements in high-performance networks are facilitating remarkable levels of scientific collaborations. These trends are leading to unprecedented scientific productivity and forcing supercomputing centers to re-evaluate how they manage data, writes NERSC’s Jason Hick in an HPC Source magazine article titled “Big-Picture Storage Approach: Re-thinking data strategies is critical to keeping up.” Hick heads the Storage Systems Group at NERSC.

ESnet Has Openings for Software Engineers

Berkeley Lab is seeking seasoned Software Engineers to join the Energy Sciences Network (ESnet). This position will work on a wide array of problems, including:

  • Software development, software installation, configuration and testing
  • Performance testing and analysis
  • Assisting with design of various software components
  • Assisting with collecting requirements from users and interpretation of user requirements into the software architecture
  • Database design and tuning.

There are multiple openings for this position. See job details. The Lab’s Employee Referral Incentive Program (ERIP) awards $1,000 (net) to employees whose referral of an external candidate leads to a successful hire.

Computing Sciences Ice Cream Social Monday, August 30

The Computing Sciences Ice Cream Social will take place next Monday, August 30, from 3:00–4:30 pm on the Building 54 (cafeteria) patio. The event will feature various organic ice cream flavors, along with a variety of toppings. All Computing Sciences staff are welcome.

Daisy-Chained Power Strips Are a Safety Hazard

During recent safety walkarounds, supervisors found several instances of “daisy-chained” power strips, where power strips are plugged in to other power strips. Daisy-chaining creates a situation where the power strip directly connected to the building outlet is often supplying power to far more than the maximum number of outlets it is rated for. The electrical current overload can result in a fire or can cause a circuit breaker to trip, deenergizing computers and other equipment throughout the area.

OSHA regulations require that conductors and electrical equipment be used in accordance with the conditions under which they are approved by a recognized testing organization. The UL listing for power strips specifies they may not be connected to other power strips. LBNL’s PUB-3000 also prohibits daisy-chaining extension cords and power strips. To read a Fast Facts summary of the hazards of daisy-chaining, go here.

Please check your area to make sure you do not have daisy-chained power strips that could cause a fire or power interruption.

This Week’s Computing Sciences Seminars

Python Boot Camp
Monday–Wednesday, August 23–25, 8:30 am–5:00 pm, 3 Leconte, UC Berkeley

The purpose of the boot camp is to get those familiar with other computing languages (like C, Java, Fortran, and Lisp) ramped on the basics of the Python language. The Boot Camp itself is a mixture of formal lectures, in-class demos, coding breakout sessions for participants, and homework projects. Registration is open to anyone in the UC Berkeley research/academic community on a first-come basis.

LU Factorizations in the Limit of Infinitesimal Grids
Wednesday, August 25, 10:00–11:00 am, 50A-5132
Naveen Somasunderam, University of California, Santa Barbara

Differential operators can be given discrete equivalents by discretizing their domain, for example by finite difference schemes. The solution to these equations then requires computing the $LU$ factorization of the discrete operators. In this talk we look at the limits of $LU$ factorizations of such matrices as the discretization size goes to zero (that is, the matrices grow in size to infinity).

We first conjecture the existence of such limits for scalar tridiagonal matrices. In particular, we show that under some suitable assumptions the Schur complements that arise from Gaussian elimination have point-wise limits on the grid.

Next we look at the constant coefficient Laplacian in two and three dimensions. It is proven that the final Schur complement of the discretized Laplacian converges in the induced two norm to a known fixed point as the grid grows in every direction. This result is subsequently used to show that the Schur complements exhibit off-diagonal blocks with low rank.

One of the many practical implications of this theory is that knowing such limits permits us to construct fast solvers for the underlying equations.

ECOOIL: A Decision Support System in Petroleum Economics
Thursday, August 26, 11:00 am–12:00 pm, 50B-4205
Hans-J. Lenz, Institut für Statistik und Ökonometrie, Freie Universität Berlin

The decision support system ECOOIL is designed to support checking the economics of oil or gas exploration and production projects of a given location before drilling or while on production. ECOOIL calculations are focused on the improvement of portfolio management and decision making processes either during the period of exploration for oil and gas prospects, the achievement of the development plan for oil and gas fields, during farm-in and farm-out attempts (asset purchases or sales), or in order to provide the proper judgment on the technical and economical feasibility of planned revamps of oil facilities and/or enhanced oil recovery measures.

ECOOIL enables the user to retrieve highly aggregated annual, quarterly or monthly data from a relational database in a user friendly way, to load it into an Excel added-on package and to use it for planning, data cleansing and decision support like ad-hoc or what-if computations.

Versus any spreadsheet approach, e.g. by Excel, ECOOIL allows missing and conflicting values and so-called forward and backward computations. Moreover, a given data set has not necessarily to be error-free, i.e. errors in the variables are allowed. Such multi-period, multivariable models with errors in the variables allow explicitly considering measurement errors which are an intrinsic part of such problems. The equations involved are based on balance and behavioral equations or equations simply given by definitions.

ECOOIL can be described by the triple (DB, ECO-CALC, GUI), where DB represents the relational database, which stores real operative or planned data and metadata of given or planned oil and gas production surface and subsurface facilities. The corresponding variables of the data represent main economic indicators — sometimes called metrics — like “Annual Oil Production Rate”, “Operating Surplus”, “Price per Barrel” etc. Metadata incorporates as “data about data” background information about ownership, teams, contracts, definition of variables, scales, units, etc. The economics computations — simple arithmetic operations — are done in the software component FUZZYCALC if fuzzy logic is used or PROBCALC if probability theory is used instead. Finally, the graphical user interface, GUI, allows to use the system by clicking on icons or selecting actions from pull-down menus in a Windows-like fashion.

Methodology is presented and ECOOIL shown in action as a prototype to highlight some of its special features which go far beyond the application of Excel. Some test runs on real oil data will demonstrate the advantages of ECOOIL calculations to improve project economics.

Photonics in the Zettabyte Evolution
Friday, August 27, 11:00 am–12:00 pm, 521 Cory Hall, UC Berkeley
Loukas Paraschis, Cisco

This presentation reviews the advancements in converged WDM network architectures, systems, and the enabling photonics technology. The scalable, cost-effective network evolution is very important for supporting the strong bandwidth demand of broadband and business applications, currently growing at more than 50 % CAGR, and expected by 2012 to exceed globally 40 Exabytes per month. The corresponding network requirements have increasingly motivated the adoption of DWDM, and packets (datagrams), leading to the most significant evolution of transport networks, and standards, in recent history. The emerging converged “open” intelligent DWDM layer improves significantly the network capital and operational cost. We review the interplay among the network architectures, system designs, and enabling photonics technology innovations, most notably including reconfigurable wavelength optical-add-drop and switching, and recent advancements in 40 and 100 Gb/s DWDM transmission leveraging new modulation formats and electronic processing. These advancements collectively enable the deployment of fiber communication systems that cost-effectively scale to Tb/s and thousands of km, and the emerging Zettabyte public IP network infrastructure. Future IP-over-DWDM network architecture and dynamic control-plane evolution, and new exciting research in variable-rate and flexible-spectrum transmission, are also being discussed.

Link of the Week: Start-Up Aims to Slay Chip Goliath

Ashlee Vance reports in the New York Times that a group of investors, including companies from the United States, Europe and the United Arab Emirates, has formed in a bid to disrupt one of Intel’s most lucrative franchises. The companies have put $48 million into Smooth-Stone, a start-up based in Austin, Tex., betting that it can modify low-power smartphone chips to run servers, the computers in corporate data centers. If successful, Smooth-Stone would undermine Intel’s server-chip business and offer companies, especially those with vast data centers like Google, Amazon.com, Facebook and Microsoft, enormous energy cost savings.

Sound familiar? The massively parallel use of low-power chips is also the basic concept of Berkeley Lab’s Green Flash project.

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.