sealPurdue News

November 15, 2002

Indiana universities team up for supercomputing conference

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Computer scientists, engineers and information technology experts from Purdue University will team up with three other Indiana universities to showcase the latest in supercomputing during an international conference that begins Saturday (11/16).

The consortium of universities, called "Research in Indiana," will highlight work at Purdue, Indiana University, the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology and the University of Notre Dame. The Research in Indiana exhibit is thought to be the only one in which several universities join forces to promote their home state's strengths in information technology.

"Research in Indiana is a chance to showcase the extraordinary discoveries and innovations in high-performance computing in the state of Indiana," said James R. Bottum, Purdue's vice president for information technology. "By working together, these four universities are able to demonstrate the strength of information technology resources available in the state."

Supercomputing 2002, Nov. 16-22 at the Baltimore Convention Center, will attract about 5,500 experts from around the world. The 15th annual supercomputing conference is sponsored by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers' Computer Society, the Association for Computing Machinery and the Special Interest Group on Computer Architecture. Exhibits will be open from Tuesday (11/19) through Thursday (11/21).

Purdue researchers will present displays on work that generally matches this year's conference theme, "From Terabytes to Insights," Bottum said.

"Computation alone does not give you insights," he said. "You gain insights during the process of turning the results of the computation – the data or the numbers – into something useful."

More than 100 companies and research organizations will sponsor exhibits. The Research in Indiana exhibit will feature posters and presentations dealing with significant developments in the areas of high-performance and grid computing, advanced communications and networking, computer and software engineering, research into the human genome, e-commerce and advanced simulations.

Purdue researchers will display presentations on several key research projects, including:

• The formation of a new federally funded Network for Computational Nanotechnology, a group of five universities led by Purdue, that will develop and use computer simulations needed to design tiny devices for a wide range of applications in nanotechnology. The center is funded with a $10.5 million, five-year grant from the National Science Foundation. Purdue will work with researchers at the University of Illinois, the University of Florida, Northwestern University and Stanford University.

• Creation of the first publicly available simulation that uses scientific principles to study in detail what theoretically happened when a Boeing 757 crashed into the Pentagon last Sept. 11. The simulation could be used as a tool for designing critical buildings – such as hospitals and fire stations – to withstand terrorist attacks. It uses principles of physics to simulate how a plane's huge mass of fuel and cargo impacts buildings made of steel-reinforced concrete. The simulation works by representing the plane and its mass as a mesh of hundreds of thousands of "finite elements," or small squares containing specific physical characteristics. The mesh of finite elements in the model requires that millions of calculations be solved for every second of simulation. Researchers originally used a bank of computers and later worked closely with Purdue's information technology staff to harness IBM supercomputers at Purdue and Indiana University.

• A computer simulation that shows the likely consequences of a bioterrorist attack in a Midwestern city during an event such as a music festival. Supercomputers at Purdue and IU were used to run the application, which requires complex calculations to create "synthetic environments," programs that help to predict how millions of people might react to situations ranging from natural disasters to product marketing. Several hundred thousand people and various government agencies are represented as "synthetic agents," all interacting as they likely would during a real attack. Purdue and IU ran the simulation by linking their IBM supercomputers in a "computational grid" via the universities' high-speed optical network, called I-Light, which enables the exchange of large amounts of information at the speed of light.

• Work to develop a new wireless "peer-to-peer" network called MOBY. The term peer-to-peer describes a type of computer network in which every computer on a network acts as both a client and a server – as opposed to a client-sever network, in which certain computers are file servers, storing programs and information that are accessed by computer users known as clients. MOBY is a prototype that is designed to provide the best performance for peer-to-peer networks by "mapping" clients to the most appropriate services.

• Research aimed at improving simulations that detail the precise flow of particles in manufacturing processes. The mixing of particles is vital to a wide range of industrial processes, such as making products from crude oil and plastics. Computer simulations are needed to better understanding the flow of particles, increasing the productivity of manufacturing operations.

Multimedia programs about the research will be presented continuously on a large screen at the booth. Researchers also will provide live presentations about their work.

Writer: Emil Venere, (765) 494-4709,

Source: James Bottum, (765) 496-2266,

NOTE TO JOURNALISTS: A news release with additional information from the four Indiana universities participating in Supercomputing 2002 is available on the web.

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

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