Magazine article Science News

Four New Centers for Supercomputing

Magazine article Science News

Four New Centers for Supercomputing

Article excerpt

A few years ago, astrophysicist Larry L. Smarr had to go to Munich, West Germany, to gain access to a computer that was fast enough to do the calculations he needed for his theoretical study of black holes. Ironicall, the supercomputer he used had been manufactured in the United States.

Now, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where Smarr directs the new $75 million Center for Supercomputing Applications, will soon get its own supercomputer. This week, the National Science Foundation (NSF) announced that Illinois is one of four institutions that will share about $200 million over the next five years to establish "national advanced scientific computing" centers.

The other centers will be at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., at the University of California at San Diego where 1 8 universities and research institutes will contribute to the center, and at a facility, run by a consortium of 12 universities, near Princeton, N.J., NSF selected these four winners from about two dozen proposals submitted as part of a nationwide competition.

"We are establishing four 'Fermilabs' for theorists," says John W.D. Connolly, director of NSF's Office of Advanced Scientific Computing, referring to the multimillion-dollar facility that particle physicists have long used for their experiments.

"It's been a long time comin," says Smarr, who along with people like Cornell physicist Kenneth G. Wilson lobbied for two years to get NSF and Congress to recognize the need to equip universities with state-of-the-art computers (SN:9/29/84, p. 200). Wilson now heads the Center for Theory and Simulation in Science and Engineering at Cornell.

To match NSF funding, the new centers are expected to raise a total of $200 m illion from state governments and industry. Cornell's center, for example, will receive more than $30 million in equipment and services from IBM Corp. …

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