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InTheLoop | 04.01.2013

The Weekly Newsletter of Berkeley Lab Computing Sciences

April 1, 2013

Berkeley Lab Code Captures Retreating Antarctic Ice

Satellite observations suggest that the shrinking West Antarctic ice sheet is contributing to global sea level rise. But until recently, scientists could not accurately model the physical processes driving retreat of the ice sheet. Now, a new ice sheet model—BISICLES—is shedding light on these details. Read more.

Meeting the Computing Challenges of Next-Generation Climate Models

As global climate models improve, they are generating ever larger amounts of data. Berkeley Lab recently hosted Climate 2013, an international workshop that brought together top climatologists, computer scientists, and engineers from Japan and the United States to exchange ideas for the next generation of climate models as well as the hyper-performance computing environments that will be needed to process the data from those models. It was the 15th in a series of such workshops that have been taking place around the world since 1999. Read more.

Horst Simon and Michael Wehner were Berkeley Lab organizers of the workshop. Speakers included:

  • John Shalf: US Exascale Efforts
  • Wes Bethel: Visual Data Exploration and Analysis of Ultra-Large Climate Data
  • Prabhat: Pattern Detection for Large Climate Datasets
  • Daithi Stone: First contributions to the C20C Detection and Attribution Project


Taghrid Samak Works to Affect Social Development in Egypt

Since the Egyptian uprising that ultimately toppled the 30-year reign of Hosni Mubarak began on Jan. 25, 2011, Taghrid Samak of Berkeley Lab’s Computational Research Division has watched as the initial hope for her homeland has unraveled into a “messy” situation, as she puts it.

But on March 23 and 24, Samak was at MIT, meeting with other Egyptian professionals to take concrete steps to address at least some of the pressing issues in the country that launched the Arab Spring. She chaired the 2013 EgyptNEGMA (Networking, Entrepreneurship, Growth, Mobilization, and Action) conference to review 10 finalist proposals for advancing social development in Egypt and choosing the top three. The organizers of the top projects will go on an incubation trip to further network and receive more in-depth feedback through working groups based around their specific proposals. Read more.

What the Heck Is Hadoop? NERSC and CRD Experts Provide Answers

A recent article in the federal technology magazine FCW, titled “What the heck is Hadoop?” discusses the uses and limitations of Hadoop, an open-source, distributed programming framework that relies on parallel processing to store and analyze tremendous amounts of structured and unstructured data. Although Hadoop is far from the only big-data tool, it is one that has generated remarkable buzz and excitement in recent years. And it offers a possible solution for IT leaders and scientific researchers who are realizing that they will soon be buried in more data than they can efficiently manage and use.

Among the experts quoted in the article are David Skinner and Shane Canon of NERSC and Deb Agarwal of CRD. Skinner says he hopes Hadoop will offer a solution to the growing problem of data blindness, which keeps scientists from deeply understanding their own datasets. Canon discusses the kinds of applications that do and don’t work well in Hadoop. And Agarwal describes it as an exciting technology, despite its limitations. Read more.

Campus Lecture Thursday on Cost-Effective Altruism

Many of us want to make the world better, but we tend to ask ourselves “Is this a good deed?” rather than “How good a deed is it?” The answer to the second question is often striking, with orders of magnitude of difference between a well-intentioned act of kindness and a well-chosen act of kindness. Join the UC Berkeley student group THINK on Thursday, April 4, for a pair of talks on cost-effective altruism and free pizza from the Cheese Board Collective. The lecture will be held from 5:00 to 7:00 pm in the Faculty Club Howard Room.

Elie Hassenfeld is a co-founder of GiveWell, whose mission is to find outstanding giving opportunities and publish the full details of its analysis to help donors decide where to give. In 2012, donors gave close to $10 million based on its recommendations. He will speak about GiveWell’s history, its experience searching for cost-effective charities, and its plans for future research.

Robin Hanson is an associate professor of economics at George Mason University and the author of the blog Overcoming Bias. He will speak about an economist’s view of cost-effective charity and some surprising, speculative ways to make a difference cost-effectively.

This Week’s Computing Sciences Seminars

Introduction to Programming on Heterogeneous Computing Systems

Monday, April 1, 10:00–11:00 am, 50F-1647
Mayank Daga, AMD Reseach

We will talk about GPUs in general. What are some of the differences between programming CPUs and GPUs. How do we use OpenCL. Overview of the architecture of latest AMD GPUs/APUs.

Revolution R for Big Data Analysis and Predictive Analytics

Tuesday, April 2, 11:00 am–12:30 pm, NERSC-238 conference room
Joseph Rickert and Douglas Wilhelm, Revolution Analytics

Revolution Analytics has taken the popular R language to unprecedented new levels of capacity and performance for statistical analysis of very large data sets. Using the built-in RevoScaleR package, R users can process, visualize and model terabyte-class data sets in a fraction of the time of legacy products — without requiring expensive or specialized hardware. We will have a Revolution Analytics Lunch and Learn, with an overview on the Revolution Enterprise, how to have more productivity, high performance, and deal with big data, including Hadoop and other new paradigms.


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.