pv-astro poster, simulating the Milky Way, and supercomputer lovefest



I gave a short presentation Friday about pv-astro, an opensource parallel visualization and analysis toolkit for large scale astrophysical datasets I built extending ParaView. The presentation was at the Swiss National Supercomputer Center’s User’s day. I also had the chance to make my first scientific poster since I explored chromatography in a science fair in grade school.

Here are some concise poster making specs


We also got to hear a few talks, including about Lucio Mayer’s recent work on a realistic simulation of a Milky Way type galaxy similar to our own

and learn more about how earthquakes and other phenomena are modeled computationally. What struck me prominently, as I don’t often go to such interdisciplinary scientific conferences, is that in biology, seismology, aerospace and astrophysics many of us are solving the same type of equations with the same type of techniques. It turns out a lot of things are or can be represented by fluids.


Finally we got an update about the machines at the center being upgraded in October. Some people like fast cars, motorcycles, and airplanes. In Zurich, one of the world’s wealthiest places, you’ll often get someone who thinks they are a hotshot drive their expensive roadster  up Bahnhofstrasse and rev the engine in a fully futile attempt to represent their fertility via soundwaves.

Me however, I like big machines, with lots of cores and an obscene amount of memory. It doesn’t make a revving sound but just imagine it in your head as I give you a list of just a few of the machines I have access to (after upgrade): Rosa at 1,500 nodes, 50,000 cores, and 47TB RAM, Todi with 176 nodes having a CPU and a NVidia Tesla GPU, with 140 TF peak performance and Julier with 2 nodes with 256 GB RAM and 48 cores each, along with 12 nodes of 48 GB RAM. And that’s just at the center, locally I have slightly smaller versions of each of these classes of machines, along with an expensive and state of the art 3D visualization center in the works. Yep, for someone who likes big machines, I’m a kid in a hardware store.

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