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HPCC-funded videos enhance NASA booth at SC98

One part scholarly seminar, one part national political convention, and one part glittery trade show. That's how the high-end computing community views the annual supercomputing conference co-sponsored by the Association for Computing Machinery and the IEEE Computer Society. All three functions draw NASA researchers and program managers to the conference in force, but by far the most visible mark of the agency's attendance is its exhibit hall booth. A perennial crowd-pleaser, the booth is embellished with plenty of interactive demonstrations and eye-popping scientific visualizations. On display Nov. 7-13 in Orlando, Fla., the NASA installation at the SC98 High-Performance Networking and Computing Conference was no exception.

For the second year in a row, six NASA field centers (Ames Research Center, Goddard Space Flight Center, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Langley Research Center, Lewis Research Center and Marshall Space Flight Center) collaborated to create a multifaceted display space. Special features included a stereo visualization theater, 13 Internet-enabled workstations running live demonstrations, two immersive virtual-reality workbenches and four video presentations documenting HPCC-supported research. HPCC officials from NASA Ames Research Center worked with staff from the Ames Numerical Aerospace Simulation Facility and other NASA centers to organize the booth.

A video presentation entitled Earth Today, which was produced at Goddard Space Flight Center with support from the HPCC Earth and Space Sciences (ESS) Project, was shown at the booth's video kiosk. The exhibit dramatizes the impact of real-time Earth observation capabilities on researchers' understanding of the atmosphere, the hydrosphere, the geosphere and the biosphere. In the video, the rotating Earth is blanketed by a series of false-color and true-color patterns based on remote sensing data from American, European and Japanese satellites. High-performance computers were used to gather, process and render these data as meaningful visualizations. Recently unveiled at a star-studded Washington, D.C., debut attended by Vice President Al Gore, the video is part of a new permanent exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum.

Another Goddard videotape using visualizations from ESS-supported projects, Images of Earth and Space II, alternated with Earth Today at the kiosk. The video showcased supercomputer-based simulations of Earth and solar system phenomena under investigation by NASA and its academic and industry partners. Included were images from simulations of the Sun's magnetic field that have yielded clues about the processes that generate and shape the field. Also shown were simulations of nonlinear thermal and surface-tension effects in liquids under microgravity conditions, studies that have helped in planning manufacturing and life-support experiments for the space shuttle and the International Space Station.

A second pair of videos featured work from computing labs supported by the HPCC Computational Aerosciences (CAS) Project.

One presentation outlined CAS's goal to accelerate the development and availability of high-performance computing technology to the U.S. aerospace community. CAS is focusing on research on TeraFLOP/s computing techniques and aerospace design using networked computing systems. The presentation explained how Grand Challenge applications in multidisciplinary design optimization (MDO) and numerical propulsion simulation systems, among others, help focus HPCC-funded research by setting technical requirements for next-generation computing and communications systems.

The final video documented work at Langley Research Center to create a heterogeneous computing network supporting all-in-one MDO. This optimization system will allow evaluation of a design for a new aircraft in a matter of days using a single graphical user interface and a variety of high-fidelity codes simulating the design's aerodynamics and structural dynamics. In 1999, project scientists at Langley will test their system using different configurations of the planned High-Speed Civil Transport.

A complete rundown of NASA projects highlighted at SC98 is available at www.nas.nasa.gov/Services/Conferences/SC98.

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