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August 24, 2007

The Week in Review

HPCwire staff

Our usual Week in Review writer, John West, has taken some much needed time off, so in his stead, we have summed up the week’s news. Enjoy.

Infamous Dinosaur Outruns Humans

New research out this week suggests that the Tyrannosaurs Rex, traveling at a top speed of about 18 miles per hour, could have outrun humans. But you say, you already saw that movie? Well, apparently there were some doubts in the scientific community that the giant predator could run at all.

The University of Manchester study used a 256-processor supercomputer to calculate the running speeds of five meat-eating dinosaurs, including the infamous T. rex. Researchers said that the success of the project was due to the computer analyzing data specific to the dinosaurs:

“Previous research has relied on data from extant bipedal models to provide clues as to how fast dinosaurs could run,” said Dr Sellers, who is based in Manchester’s Faculty of Life Sciences.

“Such calculations can accurately predict the top speed of a six-tonne chicken but dinosaurs are not built like chickens and nor do they run like them.

“Our research involved feeding information about the skeletal and muscular structure of the dinosaurs directly into the supercomputer so it could work out how the animals were best able to move.”

Read the rest of the story at

Better Science via Web 2.0

Web 2.0 is not just for teenagers and Internet junkies. Scientists and researchers at Purdue University are taking advantage of the popular technology in the form of a collaborative website called nanoHUB. Gerhard Klimeck, a professor of electrical and computing engineering and lead of the nanoHUB project, says the site gives scientists and students access to resources that they would otherwise have to learn to use:

“I’m a computer scientist, so you can give me a UNIX account and a password, and I’m good to go,” Klimeck says. “But others would take weeks to learn how to use these tools. In nanoHUB, if you know the science you can begin to use the tools immediately. nanoHUB puts scientific tools into the hands of people who wouldn’t normally touch them with a 10-foot pole.”

Current popular topics on the site include algorithms, carbon nanotubes, nanoelectronics and quantum dots. Other science disciplines, such as pharmacy and medical research, will soon by added.

For the whole story and a graphic visit

Gentlemen, Start Your Lasers

UC Santa Barbara researchers have built the world’s first mode-locked silicon evanescent laser, which provides a way to integrate optical and electronic functions on a single chip. The innovation would allow for cheaper, more energy-efficient and more compact chips.

According to the release:

Mode-locked evanescent lasers can deliver stable short pulses of laser light that are useful for many potential optical applications, including high-speed data transmission, multiple wavelength generation, remote sensing (LIDAR) and highly accurate optical clocks.

The electrically-pumped lasers emitted an impressive 40 billion pulses of light per second. These pulses can be separated and each used to transmit information at high-speed. The goal is to replace hundreds of lasers with just one.

Read the press release here:

Startup Goes High-Core

Tilera, a fabless semiconductor company, has unveiled a processor it calls TILE64. That’s 64, as in 64 cores, each of which can run Linux and combined deliver 10X the performance and 30X the performance-per-watt of the Intel dual-core Xeon. But you won’t be seeing it in a computer near you anytime soon; initial target markets for the TILE64 processor include embedded networking and digital multimedia.

From the announcement:

Tilera’s new architecture provides superior performance because it eliminates the on-chip bus interconnect, a kind of centralized intersection that information must flow through between cores within the chip, or before it leaves the chip. As engineers have added more cores to chips, the bus has created an information traffic jam because packets from these cores all must travel to one central point, like a spoke-and-wheel traffic intersection in an old city.

That’s where Tilera’s iMesh technology comes in. By placing a communications switch on each processor core and arranging them in a grid fashion on the chip, the processor is able achieve aggregate bandwidth orders of magnitude greater than a typical processor bus.

And if 64 cores aren’t enough for you, don’t worry, the company says the architecture can scale to hundreds or even thousands of cores.

You can

CAE Jettisons the Supercomputer

An article in Design News this week by Beth Stackpole discusses how high performance processors are changing the workflow for commercial CAE/CAD users. As workstations based on multicore Intel or AMD chips and the advanced GPU computing engines from NVIDIA have entered the workplace, software vendors have begun to upgrade their products to tap into this newfound power. The result is that design work that was once done toward the end of the product R&D cycle on HPC systems can now be done near the beginning of the cycle on personal workstations or PCs.

Writes Stackpole:

Pushing simulation to the front of the design sequence has a multitude of benefits. For one thing, it takes time out of the equation by eliminating any lag period between when an engineer comes up with a design and when they get feedback on its viability from analysis experts who run the simulation models in isolation from any subsequent design changes, using their own software and systems. It also lets the designer test options as they go along, which identifies problems earlier in the process, not to mention, frees up the analysis experts to focus their talents and computing horsepower on large-scale simulation problems.

One interesting aspect of this trend is that as processors become supercomputer-like, a lot of the HPC ecosystem gets compressed onto the level of the chip. Elements like interconnects, special power and cooling components, and some specialized HPC software are no longer needed. It also makes one wonder if HPC market researchers are tracking these users as they sink below the HPC radar screen.

Read the entire Design News article at