The Math-Supercomputing Connection

By Tiffany Trader

September 17, 2013

The Berkeley Lab website recently published a short “five-question” interview with David Brown, the director of the Computational Research Division at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) since August 2011. Mathematics, according to Brown, is the foundation of modern computational science. 

When Brown got a post-doc position at Los Alamos National Laboratory after earning his PhD in applied mathematics from California Institute of Technology in 1982, he thought he would only stay a couple of years, before accepting a teaching position elsewhere. Best laid plans, and all that because that 2-year plan evolved into a 31-year tenure with US Department of Energy (DOE) national laboratories, including 14 years at Los Alamos National Laboratory and 13 years at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

Brown explains that when he made the move to Lawrence Livermore National Lab, he was able to “apply his knowledge of math and science to the development and oversight of new research opportunities for scientists and mathematicians at that lab and throughout the DOE.” Brown’s passion for the field made him an ideal candidate to lead the extensive research program in applied mathematics at Berkeley Lab.

Brown refers to mathematics as the language of science, and says this language is what allows science to be put on computers. From there, it’s not a huge jump to see why the DOE invests in math research.

“New and better mathematical theories, models and algorithms…allow us to model and analyze physical and engineered systems that are important to DOE’s mission,” notes Brown. “Often math is used to make a very difficult problem tractable on computers.”

Brown cites a notable example from 30 years ago. Mathematician James Sethian’s work with asymptotic methods set the stage for breakthroughs in combustion simulation techniques. That discovery undergirds modern supercomputing codes used in everything from combustion to astrophysics to atmospheric flow.

Asked how math applies to supercomputers, Brown responds:

The scientific performance of big applications on supercomputers is as much a result of better mathematical models and algorithms as it is of increases in computer performance. In fact, the increases in performance of many scientific applications resulting from these better models and algorithms has often exceeded the performance increases due to Moore’s Law . And Moore’s Law, which predicts of doubling of performance every 18 months, offers a pretty impressive increase on its own. These improvements in performance help scientists make much more efficient use of supercomputers and study problems in greater detail.

An applied mathematician by training, Brown is especially interested in the development and analysis of algorithms for solving partial differential equations (PDEs). In 2001, the Overture project, which Brown led, was selected as one of the 100 “most important discoveries in the past 25 years” by the DOE Office of Science.

Related Items

The Masters of Uncertainty

LSU Launches Interactive Supercomputer

Mary Wheeler Receives the John von Neumann Medal

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!

Supercomputing Helps Explain the Milky Way’s Shape

September 30, 2022

If you look at the Milky Way from “above,” it almost looks like a cat’s eye: a circle of spiral arms with an oval “iris” in the middle. That iris — a starry bar that connects the spiral arms — has two stran Read more…

Top Supercomputers to Shake Up Earthquake Modeling

September 29, 2022

Two DOE-funded projects — and a bunch of top supercomputers — are converging to improve our understanding of earthquakes and enable the construction of more earthquake-resilient buildings and infrastructure. The firs Read more…

How Intel Plans to Rebuild Its Manufacturing Supply Chain

September 29, 2022

Intel's engineering roots saw a revival at this week's Innovation, with attendees recalling the show’s resemblance to Intel Developer Forum, the company's annual developer gala last held in 2016. The chipmaker cut t Read more…

Intel Labs Launches Neuromorphic ‘Kapoho Point’ Board

September 28, 2022

Over the past five years, Intel has been iterating on its neuromorphic chips and systems, aiming to create devices (and software for those devices) that closely mimic the behavior of the human brain through the use of co Read more…

DOE Announces $42M ‘COOLERCHIPS’ Datacenter Cooling Program

September 28, 2022

With massive machines like Frontier guzzling tens of megawatts of power to operate, datacenters’ energy use is of increasing concern for supercomputer operations – and particularly for the U.S. Department of Energy ( Read more…

AWS Solution Channel

Shutterstock 1818499862

Rearchitecting AWS Batch managed services to leverage AWS Fargate

AWS service teams continuously improve the underlying infrastructure and operations of managed services, and AWS Batch is no exception. The AWS Batch team recently moved most of their job scheduler fleet to a serverless infrastructure model leveraging AWS Fargate. Read more…

Microsoft/NVIDIA Solution Channel

Shutterstock 1166887495

Improving Insurance Fraud Detection using AI Running on Cloud-based GPU-Accelerated Systems

Insurance is a highly regulated industry that is evolving as the industry faces changing customer expectations, massive amounts of data, and increased regulations. A major issue facing the industry is tracking insurance fraud. Read more…

Do You Believe in Science? Take the HPC Covid Safety Pledge

September 28, 2022

ISC 2022 was back in person, and the celebration was on. Frontier had been named the first exascale supercomputer on the Top500 list, and workshops, poster sessions, paper presentations, receptions, and booth meetings we Read more…

How Intel Plans to Rebuild Its Manufacturing Supply Chain

September 29, 2022

Intel's engineering roots saw a revival at this week's Innovation, with attendees recalling the show’s resemblance to Intel Developer Forum, the company's ann Read more…

Intel Labs Launches Neuromorphic ‘Kapoho Point’ Board

September 28, 2022

Over the past five years, Intel has been iterating on its neuromorphic chips and systems, aiming to create devices (and software for those devices) that closely Read more…

HPE to Build 100+ Petaflops Shaheen III Supercomputer

September 27, 2022

The King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Saudi Arabia has announced that HPE has won the bid to build the Shaheen III supercomputer. Sh Read more…

Intel’s New Programmable Chips Next Year to Replace Aging Products

September 27, 2022

Intel shared its latest roadmap of programmable chips, and doesn't want to dig itself into a hole by following AMD's strategy in the area.  "We're thankfully not matching their strategy," said Shannon Poulin, corporate vice president for the datacenter and AI group at Intel, in response to a question posed by HPCwire during a press briefing. The updated roadmap pieces together Intel's strategy for FPGAs... Read more…

Intel Ships Sapphire Rapids – to Its Cloud

September 27, 2022

Intel has had trouble getting its chips in the hands of customers on time, but is providing the next best thing – to try out those chips in the cloud. Delayed chips such as Sapphire Rapids server processors and Habana Gaudi 2 AI chip will be available on a platform called the Intel Developer Cloud, which was announced at the Intel Innovation event being held in San Jose, California. Read more…

More Details on ‘Half-Exaflop’ Horizon System, LCCF Emerge

September 26, 2022

Since 2017, plans for the Leadership-Class Computing Facility (LCCF) have been underway. Slated for full operation somewhere around 2026, the LCCF’s scope ext Read more…

Nvidia Shuts Out RISC-V Software Support for GPUs 

September 23, 2022

Nvidia is not interested in bringing software support to its GPUs for the RISC-V architecture despite being an early adopter of the open-source technology in its GPU controllers. Nvidia has no plans to add RISC-V support for CUDA, which is the proprietary GPU software platform, a company representative... Read more…

Nvidia Introduces New Ada Lovelace GPU Architecture, OVX Systems, Omniverse Cloud

September 20, 2022

In his GTC keynote today, Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang launched another new Nvidia GPU architecture: Ada Lovelace, named for the legendary mathematician regarded as Read more…

Nvidia Shuts Out RISC-V Software Support for GPUs 

September 23, 2022

Nvidia is not interested in bringing software support to its GPUs for the RISC-V architecture despite being an early adopter of the open-source technology in its GPU controllers. Nvidia has no plans to add RISC-V support for CUDA, which is the proprietary GPU software platform, a company representative... Read more…

AWS Takes the Short and Long View of Quantum Computing

August 30, 2022

It is perhaps not surprising that the big cloud providers – a poor term really – have jumped into quantum computing. Amazon, Microsoft Azure, Google, and th Read more…

US Senate Passes CHIPS Act Temperature Check, but Challenges Linger

July 19, 2022

The U.S. Senate on Tuesday passed a major hurdle that will open up close to $52 billion in grants for the semiconductor industry to boost manufacturing, supply chain and research and development. U.S. senators voted 64-34 in favor of advancing the CHIPS Act, which sets the stage for the final consideration... Read more…

Chinese Startup Biren Details BR100 GPU

August 22, 2022

Amid the high-performance GPU turf tussle between AMD and Nvidia (and soon, Intel), a new, China-based player is emerging: Biren Technology, founded in 2019 and headquartered in Shanghai. At Hot Chips 34, Biren co-founder and president Lingjie Xu and Biren CTO Mike Hong took the (virtual) stage to detail the company’s inaugural product: the Biren BR100 general-purpose GPU (GPGPU). “It is my honor to present... Read more…

Newly-Observed Higgs Mode Holds Promise in Quantum Computing

June 8, 2022

The first-ever appearance of a previously undetectable quantum excitation known as the axial Higgs mode – exciting in its own right – also holds promise for developing and manipulating higher temperature quantum materials... Read more…

AMD’s MI300 APUs to Power Exascale El Capitan Supercomputer

June 21, 2022

Additional details of the architecture of the exascale El Capitan supercomputer were disclosed today by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s (LLNL) Terri Read more…

Tesla Bulks Up Its GPU-Powered AI Super – Is Dojo Next?

August 16, 2022

Tesla has revealed that its biggest in-house AI supercomputer – which we wrote about last year – now has a total of 7,360 A100 GPUs, a nearly 28 percent uplift from its previous total of 5,760 GPUs. That’s enough GPU oomph for a top seven spot on the Top500, although the tech company best known for its electric vehicles has not publicly benchmarked the system. If it had, it would... Read more…

Exclusive Inside Look at First US Exascale Supercomputer

July 1, 2022

HPCwire takes you inside the Frontier datacenter at DOE's Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in Oak Ridge, Tenn., for an interview with Frontier Project Direc Read more…

Leading Solution Providers

Contributors

AMD Opens Up Chip Design to the Outside for Custom Future

June 15, 2022

AMD is getting personal with chips as it sets sail to make products more to the liking of its customers. The chipmaker detailed a modular chip future in which customers can mix and match non-AMD processors in a custom chip package. "We are focused on making it easier to implement chips with more flexibility," said Mark Papermaster, chief technology officer at AMD during the analyst day meeting late last week. Read more…

Nvidia, Intel to Power Atos-Built MareNostrum 5 Supercomputer

June 16, 2022

The long-troubled, hotly anticipated MareNostrum 5 supercomputer finally has a vendor: Atos, which will be supplying a system that includes both Nvidia and Inte Read more…

UCIe Consortium Incorporates, Nvidia and Alibaba Round Out Board

August 2, 2022

The Universal Chiplet Interconnect Express (UCIe) consortium is moving ahead with its effort to standardize a universal interconnect at the package level. The c Read more…

Using Exascale Supercomputers to Make Clean Fusion Energy Possible

September 2, 2022

Fusion, the nuclear reaction that powers the Sun and the stars, has incredible potential as a source of safe, carbon-free and essentially limitless energy. But Read more…

Is Time Running Out for Compromise on America COMPETES/USICA Act?

June 22, 2022

You may recall that efforts proposed in 2020 to remake the National Science Foundation (Endless Frontier Act) have since expanded and morphed into two gigantic bills, the America COMPETES Act in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act in the U.S. Senate. So far, efforts to reconcile the two pieces of legislation have snagged and recent reports... Read more…

Nvidia, Qualcomm Shine in MLPerf Inference; Intel’s Sapphire Rapids Makes an Appearance.

September 8, 2022

The steady maturation of MLCommons/MLPerf as an AI benchmarking tool was apparent in today’s release of MLPerf v2.1 Inference results. Twenty-one organization Read more…

Not Just Cash for Chips – The New Chips and Science Act Boosts NSF, DOE, NIST

August 3, 2022

After two-plus years of contentious debate, several different names, and final passage by the House (243-187) and Senate (64-33) last week, the Chips and Science Act will soon become law. Besides the $54.2 billion provided to boost US-based chip manufacturing, the act reshapes US science policy in meaningful ways. NSF’s proposed budget... Read more…

India Launches Petascale ‘PARAM Ganga’ Supercomputer

March 8, 2022

Just a couple of weeks ago, the Indian government promised that it had five HPC systems in the final stages of installation and would launch nine new supercomputers this year. Now, it appears to be making good on that promise: the country’s National Supercomputing Mission (NSM) has announced the deployment of “PARAM Ganga” petascale supercomputer at Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)... Read more…

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
HPCwire