Jan 14, 2009

Tech - New software to convert ordinary laptops into supercomputers

Washington, Jan 13 (IANS) A new software will convert ordinary laptops into powerful supercomputers to extract features and patterns from enormously complex data sets.

The tool - a set of problem-solving calculations known as an algorithm - is compact enough to run on computers and laptops with as little as two gigabytes of memory.

It has been designed and developed by scientists at University of California, Davis (UC-D), and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

They have already used it to probe a slew of phenomena represented by billions of data points, including analysing and creating images of flame surfaces; searching for clusters and voids in a virtual universe experiment; and identifying and tracking pockets of fluid in a simulated mixing of two fluids.

'What we've developed is a workable system of handling any data in any dimension,' said Attila Gyulassy, who led the five-year development effort while pursuing a PhD in computer science at UC Davis.

'We expect this algorithm will become an integral part of a scientist's toolbox to answer questions about data,' he said.

One of Gyulassy's tests of the algorithm was to use it to analyse and track the formation and movement of pockets of fluid in the simulated mixing of two fluids: one dense, one light.

The complexity of this data set is so vast - it consists of more than one billion data points on a 3-D grid - it challenges even supercomputers, Gyulassy said.

Yet the new algorithm with its streamlining features was able to perform the analysis on a laptop computer with just two gigabytes of memory, said a UC-D release.

Although Gyulassy had to wait nearly 24 hours for the little machine to complete its calculations, at the end of this process he could pull up images in mere seconds to illustrate phenomena he was interested in, such as the branching of fluid pockets in the mixture.

The paper was published in the November-December issue of IEEE Transactions on Visualisation and Computer Graphics.

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