Coke Reed & the Data Vortex: A Brief History

By Reed Devany

January 15, 2018

My grandfather, Coke Reed, often says that little to no mathematics actually happens within the confines of a mathematics department or faculty lounge. Many of the greatest discoveries and advancements in science are born in a musty coffee house or over a pint at a local pub. For him, the Data Vortex journey began at a Hardee’s hamburger joint in Auburn, Alabama.

In the 1970s, Coke had taken it upon himself to solve Problem #110 of the Scottish Book, a collection of unsolved mathematical conjectures. Forty years prior, future Manhattan Project scientist Stanislaw Ulam posited on fixed points of flows defined on n-dimensional Euclidean space. His conjecture had gone unproven and its attached prize, a bottle of wine, left unclaimed. Coke’s interest in the problem stemmed from his work on dynamical systems with John W. Neuberger and was driven by a desire to solve the last Scottish Book problem with a prize attached to it and whose author was still alive. While eating lunch alone in 1976 the solution to Problem #110 came to Coke – a moment of clarity at a most unexpected time. A novel way to understand particle movement in a system suddenly formalized. Coke submitted the solution to Ulam who awarded him and his coauthor, Krystyna Kuperberg, each a bottle of the promised prize wine. The solution was published in Fundamenta Mathematicae in 1981.

In the thirty years that followed, Coke worked at institutions that gave him access to Seymour Cray’s early machines and granted witness to a rapid rise in computing capabilities. This growing field offered him a new outlet to wet his intellectual appetite as he observed challenges in fine-grained computation. Existing systems were ill-suited to handle the more challenging problems in mathematics and science. He started to consider how the mathematical solution for particle movement in Problem #110 could be modified to describe data movement in a computer – a challenge which would consume him for many years. By the time Coke arrived at the University of Colorado Boulder in the early 1990s, he had adopted the study of such Eastern philosophies as Taoism. He embraced the importance of clearing one’s mind and finding wisdom in all things through a path of self-discovery. These beliefs were entrenched in his professional life as a mathematical thinker and educator. For instance, Coke’s calculus classes used Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance in place of traditional suggested texts. In the spirit of these teachings and of Albert Einstein who once prescribed “look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better,” Coke went up to Rocky Mountain National Park one early Spring day in 1994. In the mountains, just as he saw the solution to Ulam’s problem over a hamburger and fries, the Data Vortex, a dynamical system of three-dimensional Euclidean space, came to him – a true mathematical discovery.

It is difficult to describe what occurs within the human brain prior to a moment of grand revelation. As my grandfather describes it, one second the mind is focused on something entirely unrelated, sometimes nothing at all, the next, a solution to some long-considered problem appears, rearing its head from filed away sub consciousness. History is presented in a way that makes us believe that these “eureka moments” mark the grand finale of discovery when in fact they are only the beginning. With the support of his family, Coke has authored over thirty patents and has assembled a team of incredibly bright and adventurous engineers and software experts that have made his concept of a scalable, fine-grained, low-latency, congestion free network system a technological reality. Over the past six years, our company, Data Vortex Technologies, has implemented the Data Vortex (www.datavortex.com/network) onto FPGA chips, delivering systems to government and university customers. Our initial users were brave and took bold steps to get their hands on this revolutionary technology, willing to face new challenges and leave the comfort zone of traditional HPC. Data Vortex systems have produced noticeable performance improvements on a wide array of problems and pave the way for advancements in new sciences.

As the industry continues to grow, the ability to differentiate between disciplines becomes more difficult. The areas of big scientific research, big data analysis, mathematics, and telecommunications swirl closer together and it is evident that significant changes are required. Younger generations of thinkers and designers no longer pigeonhole themselves within a single field or career. The Data Vortex network is built upon Coke’s philosophy of diverse, novel, and inquiry-based thought and is well poised to meet global challenges. As the world awaits the next great paradigm shift it is time we embrace the technologies and solutions with the capacity to make that happen.

About the Author: Reed Devany is the Communications Manager for Data Vortex Technologies and the third generation of his family to work for the company.

 

 

Figure 1: Coke Reed and the Solution to Problem #110
Figure 2: The Data Vortex Network
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