High Performance Humanities

By John E. West

May 8, 2008

On April 21, the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) announced something new: they would be teaming up with the U.S. Department of Energy to offer one million CPU hours on supercomputers at NERSC for use by researchers in the humanities. The effort is managed out of the NEH’s new Office of Digital Humanities, created recently to recognize the increasing importance of computing in what has traditionally been a very old-fashioned area of research.

According to Brett Bobley, CIO at the NEH and the director of the new Office of Digital Humanities (ODH), access to materials was the first big boon of computing for the humanities.

Although there are many research disciplines in the humanities, many of them share one trait: the analysis of documents; lots and lots of documents. Old newspapers, land ownership records, manuscript fragments, diaries, and war department memos are the stuff of new discovery. But unfortunately this stuff hasn’t been very available for scholars to study until the Internet revolutionized our society’s ability to organize and present data. As Bobley says, “once the Web came around, you suddenly had access to tons of materials you used to have to fly around the world to see in person.”

Though it was a critical breakthrough, access to these documents only creates an opportunity for discovery. In order to realize the potential of that opportunity, a vast mountain of material has to be filtered, sifted, collated, compared and understood. With millions of documents accessible instantly from anywhere in the world, the challenge is simply too great to meet without the aid of computers.

The recognition of this shift in research methodology was the genesis for the creation of the ODH as the nation’s leading humanities research funding organization. The NEH sponsored the “Supercomputing and the Humanities” workshop in July of 2007 to explore some of the research already going on at that time, and to get a glimpse at the potential for the future. There were many presenters, including David Koller from the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities at the University of Virginia, who presented results of efforts to computationally reassemble fragmentary artifacts; essentially, using a computer to put together the pieces of ancient, broken puzzles. In another example, David Bamman at Tufts University presented efforts by the Perseus Project to use computational methods for syntactic parsing of document stores to create a distilled understanding of an entire library’s contents.

With these motivating examples, it is exciting to imagine the possibles of moving up from desktops or small home-built clusters to large systems with thousands or tens of thousands of processors. And that excitement led to the creation of the new Humanities High Performance Computing (HHPC) initiative. But how will the work actually get done?

In many cases there is a large body of algorithmic work — especially in the analysis of text, video, and voice streams — that has been sponsored by the military and intelligence communities. These algorithms can jump start the digital transition in the humanities, providing a ploughshare use for technologies originally developed in the military-industrial complex. According to Bobley, “a surprising amount of this technology is in the public domain,” and the NEH sees it as part of their mission to build the relationships that will bridge these tools into the humanities. But, as Bobley points out, a key in the success of this transition will be making the tools usable for non-computational specialists.

Making that transition, and bringing over tools with added value in usability and accessibility, is a tall order, but one that starts like most things start: with a conversation. As Bobley sees it, a major goal for this first HHPC effort is to get the computational and humanities communities talking with each other and exploring possibilities.

The T-RACES project, a collaboration between the computational experts of the San Diego Supercomputer Center and the University of California Humanities Research Institute (UCHRI), is an example of the collaboration that Bobley has in mind. UCHRI researchers are bringing the expertise and domain context of the institutionalized practice of flagging minority neighborhoods as undesirable for mortgages in the 1930s and 40s in California to the effort. SDSC researchers are bringing their expertise with grid-based repositories of data to this domain, so that the historical documents can be made available to anyone over the internet, along with new context and analysis by the UCHRI team enabled by computational tools.

Although the recent announcement focused on the NEH/DOE Humanities High Performance Computing (HHPC) Program, Bobley points to two grant programs that are likely to be instrumental in advancing the use of computation in this field. The HHPC program will award 1 million hours of CPU time on NERSC machines to a few “lighthouse” projects in chunks of 100,000 to 500,000 hours. (The deadline for application is July 15 for a January 2009 project start.)

The second opportunity for researchers is the NEH’s long standing Collaborative Research Grants. These grants are for one to three years, and have typically been used to bring together teams of humanities scholars to accomplish a major task. But Bobley points out that, in the context of the HHPC program, the collaborative grants could be used to build the distributed teams that will be needed to make best use of supercomputer time awarded in the HHPC program. Information on both grants is available at www.neh.gov/grants.

Long-time HPC professionals looking to put a little juice back in their careers may want to take special note of all this. Bobley’s vision is for the conversation his initiative starts to go both ways, “We really are interested not only in inspiring humanities scholars, but also in bringing HPC practitioners to the humanities.”

Subscribe to HPCwire's Weekly Update!

Be the most informed person in the room! Stay ahead of the tech trends with industy updates delivered to you every week!

Penguin Computing Brings Cascade Lake-AP to OCP Form Factor

July 7, 2020

Penguin Computing, a subsidiary of SMART Global Holdings, Inc., is announcing a new Tundra server, Tundra AP, that is the first to implement the Intel Xeon Scalable 9200 series processors (codenamed Cascade Lake-AP) in t Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Google Cloud Debuts 16-GPU Ampere A100 Instances

July 7, 2020

On the heels of the Nvidia's Ampere A100 GPU launch in May, Google Cloud is announcing alpha availability of the A100 "Accelerator Optimized" VM A2 instance family on Google Compute Engine. The instances are powered by t Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Q&A: HLRS’s Bastian Koller Tackles HPC and Industry in Germany and Europe

July 6, 2020

HPCwire: Let's start with HLRS and work our way up to the European scale. HLRS has stood out in the HPC world for its support of both scientific and industrial research. Can you discuss key developments in recent years? Read more…

By Steve Conway, Hyperion

The Barcelona Supercomputing Center Offers a Virtual Tour of Its MareNostrum Supercomputer

July 6, 2020

With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to threaten the world and disrupt normal operations, facility tours remain a little difficult to operate, with many supercomputing centers having shuttered facility tours for visitor Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

What’s New in Computing vs. COVID-19: Fugaku, Congress, De Novo Design & More

July 2, 2020

Supercomputing, big data and artificial intelligence are crucial tools in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. Around the world, researchers, corporations and governments are urgently devoting their computing reso Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

AWS Solution Channel

Maxar Builds HPC on AWS to Deliver Forecasts 58% Faster Than Weather Supercomputer

When weather threatens drilling rigs, refineries, and other energy facilities, oil and gas companies want to move fast to protect personnel and equipment. And for firms that trade commodity shares in oil, precious metals, crops, and livestock, the weather can significantly impact their buy-sell decisions. Read more…

Intel® HPC + AI Pavilion

Supercomputing the Pandemic: Scientific Community Tackles COVID-19 from Multiple Perspectives

Since their inception, supercomputers have taken on the biggest, most complex, and most data-intensive computing challenges—from confirming Einstein’s theories about gravitational waves to predicting the impacts of climate change. Read more…

OpenPOWER Reboot – New Director, New Silicon Partners, Leveraging Linux Foundation Connections

July 2, 2020

Earlier this week the OpenPOWER Foundation announced the contribution of IBM’s A21 Power processor core design to the open source community. Roughly this time last year, IBM announced open sourcing its Power instructio Read more…

By John Russell

Google Cloud Debuts 16-GPU Ampere A100 Instances

July 7, 2020

On the heels of the Nvidia's Ampere A100 GPU launch in May, Google Cloud is announcing alpha availability of the A100 "Accelerator Optimized" VM A2 instance fam Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Q&A: HLRS’s Bastian Koller Tackles HPC and Industry in Germany and Europe

July 6, 2020

HPCwire: Let's start with HLRS and work our way up to the European scale. HLRS has stood out in the HPC world for its support of both scientific and industrial Read more…

By Steve Conway, Hyperion

OpenPOWER Reboot – New Director, New Silicon Partners, Leveraging Linux Foundation Connections

July 2, 2020

Earlier this week the OpenPOWER Foundation announced the contribution of IBM’s A21 Power processor core design to the open source community. Roughly this time Read more…

By John Russell

Hyperion Forecast – Headwinds in 2020 Won’t Stifle Cloud HPC Adoption or Arm’s Rise

June 30, 2020

The semiannual taking of HPC’s pulse by Hyperion Research – late fall at SC and early summer at ISC – is a much-watched indicator of things come. This yea Read more…

By John Russell

Racism and HPC: a Special Podcast

June 29, 2020

Promoting greater diversity in HPC is a much-discussed goal and ostensibly a long-sought goal in HPC. Yet it seems clear HPC is far from achieving this goal. Re Read more…

Top500 Trends: Movement on Top, but Record Low Turnover

June 25, 2020

The 55th installment of the Top500 list saw strong activity in the leadership segment with four new systems in the top ten and a crowning achievement from the f Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

ISC 2020 Keynote: Hope for the Future, Praise for Fugaku and HPC’s Pandemic Response

June 24, 2020

In stark contrast to past years Thomas Sterling’s ISC20 keynote today struck a more somber note with the COVID-19 pandemic as the central character in Sterling’s annual review of worldwide trends in HPC. Better known for his engaging manner and occasional willingness to poke prickly egos, Sterling instead strode through the numbing statistics associated... Read more…

By John Russell

ISC 2020’s Student Cluster Competition Winners Announced

June 24, 2020

Normally, the Student Cluster Competition involves teams of students building real computing clusters on the show floors of major supercomputer conferences and Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Supercomputer Modeling Tests How COVID-19 Spreads in Grocery Stores

April 8, 2020

In the COVID-19 era, many people are treating simple activities like getting gas or groceries with caution as they try to heed social distancing mandates and protect their own health. Still, significant uncertainty surrounds the relative risk of different activities, and conflicting information is prevalent. A team of Finnish researchers set out to address some of these uncertainties by... Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

[email protected] Turns Its Massive Crowdsourced Computer Network Against COVID-19

March 16, 2020

For gamers, fighting against a global crisis is usually pure fantasy – but now, it’s looking more like a reality. As supercomputers around the world spin up Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

[email protected] Rallies a Legion of Computers Against the Coronavirus

March 24, 2020

Last week, we highlighted [email protected], a massive, crowdsourced computer network that has turned its resources against the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the globe – but [email protected] isn’t the only game in town. The internet is buzzing with crowdsourced computing... Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Global Supercomputing Is Mobilizing Against COVID-19

March 12, 2020

Tech has been taking some heavy losses from the coronavirus pandemic. Global supply chains have been disrupted, virtually every major tech conference taking place over the next few months has been canceled... Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Supercomputer Simulations Reveal the Fate of the Neanderthals

May 25, 2020

For hundreds of thousands of years, neanderthals roamed the planet, eventually (almost 50,000 years ago) giving way to homo sapiens, which quickly became the do Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

DoE Expands on Role of COVID-19 Supercomputing Consortium

March 25, 2020

After announcing the launch of the COVID-19 High Performance Computing Consortium on Sunday, the Department of Energy yesterday provided more details on its sco Read more…

By John Russell

Steve Scott Lays Out HPE-Cray Blended Product Roadmap

March 11, 2020

Last week, the day before the El Capitan processor disclosures were made at HPE's new headquarters in San Jose, Steve Scott (CTO for HPC & AI at HPE, and former Cray CTO) was on-hand at the Rice Oil & Gas HPC conference in Houston. He was there to discuss the HPE-Cray transition and blended roadmap, as well as his favorite topic, Cray's eighth-gen networking technology, Slingshot. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Honeywell’s Big Bet on Trapped Ion Quantum Computing

April 7, 2020

Honeywell doesn’t spring to mind when thinking of quantum computing pioneers, but a decade ago the high-tech conglomerate better known for its control systems waded deliberately into the then calmer quantum computing (QC) waters. Fast forward to March when Honeywell announced plans to introduce an ion trap-based quantum computer whose ‘performance’ would... Read more…

By John Russell

Leading Solution Providers

Contributors

Neocortex Will Be First-of-Its-Kind 800,000-Core AI Supercomputer

June 9, 2020

Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center (PSC - a joint research organization of Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh) has won a $5 million award Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

‘Billion Molecules Against COVID-19’ Challenge to Launch with Massive Supercomputing Support

April 22, 2020

Around the world, supercomputing centers have spun up and opened their doors for COVID-19 research in what may be the most unified supercomputing effort in hist Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Nvidia’s Ampere A100 GPU: Up to 2.5X the HPC, 20X the AI

May 14, 2020

Nvidia's first Ampere-based graphics card, the A100 GPU, packs a whopping 54 billion transistors on 826mm2 of silicon, making it the world's largest seven-nanom Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Australian Researchers Break All-Time Internet Speed Record

May 26, 2020

If you’ve been stuck at home for the last few months, you’ve probably become more attuned to the quality (or lack thereof) of your internet connection. Even Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

10nm, 7nm, 5nm…. Should the Chip Nanometer Metric Be Replaced?

June 1, 2020

The biggest cool factor in server chips is the nanometer. AMD beating Intel to a CPU built on a 7nm process node* – with 5nm and 3nm on the way – has been i Read more…

By Doug Black

15 Slides on Programming Aurora and Exascale Systems

May 7, 2020

Sometime in 2021, Aurora, the first planned U.S. exascale system, is scheduled to be fired up at Argonne National Laboratory. Cray (now HPE) and Intel are the k Read more…

By John Russell

Summit Supercomputer is Already Making its Mark on Science

September 20, 2018

Summit, now the fastest supercomputer in the world, is quickly making its mark in science – five of the six finalists just announced for the prestigious 2018 Read more…

By John Russell

TACC Supercomputers Run Simulations Illuminating COVID-19, DNA Replication

March 19, 2020

As supercomputers around the world spin up to combat the coronavirus, the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) is announcing results that may help to illumina Read more…

By Staff report

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!
Share This