Sep. 13, 2001 University of Arizona researchers are part of a new $57 million Department of Energy program to develop "terascale" scientific supercomputing.
The University of California Santa Cruz, UA, Los Alamos National Laboratory and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory have been awarded $700,000 for the first year of the three-or-more-year Scientific Discovery through Advanced Computing (SciDAC) program, DOE announced earlier this month.
The program partners scientists from national energy laboratories and universities to work as integrated teams on complex problems that require more powerful computing tools and technologies. Such problem areas include climate modeling, fusion energy sciences, chemical sciences, nuclear astrophysics, high energy physics and high performance computing. A total 51 projects were selected from more than 150 proposals.
The SciDAC Center for Supernova Research will develop new computer simulation codes for modeling supernova explosions on terascale computers, said astrophysicist Adam S. Burrows, who leads the UA team.
Today's computers are 100 times faster than the computers of a decade ago. The most powerful computers in another five or 10 years will be a thousand times faster than today's. The next generation "terascale" computers will perform trillions of calculations per second. Researchers could use these new tools to gain greater insights on several fundamental processes of nature, including supernovae explosions, Burrows said.
"Our challenge is to bring astrophysical simulations of these incomprehensibly violent events to the next level of refinement," Burrows said. "There is a basic understanding of how supernovae explode, but these ideas have been validated only imperfectly because the computational tools available haven't been particularly accurate. Our hope is to refine supernova simulations that really connect with nature in all its complexity."
Other members of the UA group are astronomer Philip A. Pinto and Bernard P. Zeigler, Salim A. Hariri and Hessam S. Sarjoughian of the electrical and computer engineering department. Burrows and Pinto are expert in designing computer experiments that mathematically simulate supernovae explosions as a way to test theory against actual observation. Zeigler, Hariri and Sarjoughian will focus on developing mathematical and computing systems software that will maximize new supercomputing power through parallel processing.
The consortium, led by Stanford E. Woosley, head of the UCSC astronomy department, will use the world's most powerful unclassified supercomputer at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Burrows added. The SciDAC Supernova Research Center website is http://www.supersci.org
Anywhere from 100 million to a billion supernova explosions have blasted our Milky Way galaxy during its 15-billion-year or so existence, Burrows said. These are explosions on a cosmic scale, where matter within seconds converts to energy comparable to 10 billion years of solar radiation.
These phenomena influence the birth of stars, are the source of the energetic cosmic-rays that irradiate us on Earth, and, collectively, by their prodigious energy and momentum during the birth of galaxies in the infant universe, may have helped shape the galaxies themselves, Burrows wrote in a Nature article published last February.
Supernovae have progressively enriched Earth with "the oxygen we breathe, the iron in our cars, the calcium in our bones and the silicon in the rocks at our feet," he wrote.
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