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Supercomputing Space

Modeling Supernovae With a Supercomputer 64

A team of scientists at the University of Chicago will be using 22 million processor-hours to simulate the physics of exploding stars. The team will make use of the Blue Gene/P supercomputer at Argonne National Laboratory to analyze four different scenarios for type Ia supernovae. Included in the link is a video simulation of a thermonuclear flame busting its way out of a white dwarf. The processing time was made possible by the Department of Energy's INCITE program. "Burning in a white dwarf can occur as a deflagration or as a detonation. 'Imagine a pool of gasoline and throw a match on it. That kind of burning across the pool of gasoline is a deflagration,' Jordan said. 'A detonation is simply if you were to light a stick of dynamite and allow it to explode.' In the Flash Center scenario, deflagration starts off-center of the star's core. The burning creates a hot bubble of less dense ash that pops out the side due to buoyancy, like a piece of Styrofoam submerged in water."
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Modeling Supernovae With a Supercomputer

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  • by nih ( 411096 ) on Sunday May 04, 2008 @11:43AM (#23291972)
    blimey, i was expecting them to use prayer, because that has been proven to work unlike these so called 'computers', which according to Ben Stein the nazi's used
    • by Dirtside ( 91468 )
      Hm, Stein's Corollary to Godwin's Law: Anything the Nazis did, used, or believed in is evil.
  • Imagine a pool of gasoline and throw a match on it.

    like a piece of Styrofoam submerged in water

    Now I know what to do with myself on this slow Sunday morning.
    • ok, but don't try the other.

      'A detonation is simply if you were to light a stick of dynamite and allow it to explode.'
      At least till they figure out how to simulate lighting a stick of dynamite and *NOT* allowing it to explode?
      Even then, I wouldn't test the results empirically.
  • I bet he could make a neater looking explosion without the use of a super computer. It'd even have audio!
  • maybe, just maybe, it might pack enough grunt to play crysis
  • ....to see the BlueGene explode in flames from all the complicated calculations....hope to see this on youtube!
    • I modeled a Type 1A at home by taking an old 74LS00 IC and hooking power and ground up to a neon light power supply. I yelled "Don't cross the streams!" and flipped the switch. Glowing fragments flew in all directions, proving the inversion of the event horizon and validating my work in the field of glowing-particle physics.

      There seems to be some quantum effect component also, because right after the simulation, my landlady appeared and went supernova too!
  • saw this on tv (Score:3, Informative)

    by lucky130 ( 267588 ) on Sunday May 04, 2008 @12:22PM (#23292306)
    A little over a third of the way through s02e09 of The Universe here [tv.com] has these guys talking about their simulation.
  • What are processor-hours, exactly? I don't think it's utilization of the supercomputer for x-amount of hours, since that would mean they've booked the computer for almost 42 years.
  • !news (Score:2, Interesting)

    I thought this story sounded familiar. Then I clicked the link, and lo and behold, there's the exact same video I remembered watching a year ago. I double checked -- the video was dated March of 2007. So why is this just now making headlines? I could understand if they re-ran the simulation with new physics that proved to be more accurate or something, but why link to the old video?
  • was I the only one who initially read the headline as "Modeling Supermodels with a Supercomputer"?
    • was I the only one who initially read the headline as "Modeling Supermodels with a Supercomputer"?
      • No. I was also thinking of supermodels after the headline.
        • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward
          modeling with supercomputers should be called "supermodeling" from now on
  • Computing in Cloud (Score:3, Informative)

    by JavaGenosse ( 1174861 ) on Sunday May 04, 2008 @02:28PM (#23293370)
    I think Scientific Modeling in a compute cloud is more sexy, since it is way cheaper than 42 millions of processor hours and allows spikes. If one doesn't see differences between lab grid and cloud, go read wikipedia or http://groups.google.ca/group/cloud-computing/browse_thread/thread/73e1030b18df3730?hl=en [google.ca]
    • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )
      That's just fine provided you don't need fast (or really, any) interprocess communication. Not all problems work that way.
      • Yeah I agree, latency might be terrible and can kill some MPI or like jobs. But for independent jobs it is perfect and cheap to overflow to cloud.
        • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )
          There are a few applications, like SETI that work that way. A lot don't. This is one of them. Someone else mentioned that this project uses a multibody problem algorithm. Multibody problems are tightly integrated. Not only latency, but synchronization issues mean you have to use a dedicated machine.
  • Does anyone have any implementation level details about this? I'd love to hear what the software approach is, what programming language they'll be working in, how the parallelism will be handled, what sorts of problems are involved etc etc etc. We come here for news for nerds (well, cool graphics are OK too, but...)
    • by mikael ( 484 ) on Sunday May 04, 2008 @09:02PM (#23296056)
      If you visit the webpages of the various research departments related to visualisation and parallel processing, then you can find many research papers related to this and other topics:

      A study of parallel techniques for visualisation [ucdavis.edu].

      A parallel visualization pipeline for Terascale earthquake simulation [ucdavis.edu]

      Scientific Discovery through Advanced Visualization [ucdavis.edu]

      A case study in Supernovae Simulation Data [uchicago.edu]

      It's just amazing to find out how much is going on inside a star - not just the fusion of Hydrogen and Helium atoms, but intense magnetic fields that drive rivers of liquid Hydrogen and Helium through rising and falling convection cells, which in turn create new magnetic fields.
    • by transonic_shock ( 1024205 ) on Sunday May 04, 2008 @09:56PM (#23296384) Homepage
      I had looked at ther work month ago when researching on writing my own N-body code. So, basically this is an implementation of Fast multipole Method (used in N-body computaion). Tradationaly (or rather in it's naive form) N-body codes are of the order N^2. Fast multipole algorithm (and Barnes-Hut and multitudes of their derivatives) does this at NLogN or better. You can have various kinds physical phenomenon occuring between two bodies/particles/points (graviational, electromagnetic etc) and this problem solves the physics for millions (or billions of such particles making up a supernovae) The entire 3d space is broken down into a oct-tree. You can traverse down to a group of particles (or one particle in Barnes-Hut), and traverse up calculating the force. The basic idea is to make a group of particles a large distance act like a single particle when calculating it's potential on another particle. Mind you the particle here is really a loose definition. It's really the most granular subdivion of space you could afford to calculate. Hence the need for bigger computers for better accuracy. The parallelism is MPI based. It's simpler to handle parallelism for nbody stuff compared to eulerian grid type problems.
      • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        the code they are using, flash code, is not a simple n-body code. the flash code is a multi-physics, adaptive mesh, eularian hydrodynamics code. you may want to do a better job on your homework before posting.

        p.s. - i'm one of the original authors of the flash code.

  • With all the excess CPU cycles coming on-line every year now, it's nice to see some significant uses for them.

    We just need continually improving ways to make those excess cycles available.

  • "Modeling Supernovae with a Supercomputer controlled by the Aperture Science Supercolliding Superbutton"
  • And here I thought that supernovae would be modeled by a supermodel.
  • ...stop 'exploding', do a 360 degree revolution, and carry on exploding. Are the physicists sure they have this right? I don't think that kind of process could preserve angular momentum, not to mention the vast amounts of energy that seem to be held at bay for significant periods of time.

"It takes all sorts of in & out-door schooling to get adapted to my kind of fooling" - R. Frost