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Published November 27, 2023
A presentation by University of Wyoming President Ed Seidel, UW School of Computing Director Gabrielle Allen and the University of Utah’s Manish Parashar at an international conference on high-performance computing is now available for viewing on YouTube.
The presentation, “Black Holes, Multi-Messenger Astronomy and Gravitational Waves: A Revolution in Science Enabled by Advances in Computing,” took place at ISC High Performance 2023 in Hamburg, Germany, earlier this year. Formerly known as the International Supercomputing Conference, ISC High Performance is an annual conference on supercomputing that has been held in Europe since 1986 and stands as the oldest supercomputing conference in the world.
The presentation by Seidel, Allen and Parashar focuses on the history of numerical relativity -- the field of solving Albert Einstein’s equations of general relativity -- and how the quest to compute waveforms from two colliding black holes helped develop high-performance computing systems, software and algorithms. In turn, these developments led to a breakthrough in the ability to carry out simulations of colliding black holes observed with gravitational wave observatories in 2015, leading to the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2017.
“Essentially, we explain how Einstein’s theories helped drive a computing revolution and how computation solved Einstein’s equations -- a symbiotic relationship for over half a century,” Seidel says. “With this as a foundation, many other astrophysical systems can be observed, again advancing both science and computational techniques, including artificial intelligence.”
Seidel’s successful work in numerical relativity has been aided by technologies and methods developed by Seidel and his teams of researchers. For example, he realized early on that, instead of using a specific algorithm to solve a particular form of the Einstein equations, he could develop a general approach to solving a broad set of partial differential equations with a wide variety of algorithms.
However, to accomplish this, he needed a more multifaceted tool. This led to the development of the Cactus Toolkit, a comprehensive, modular tool for high-performance computing. Cactus is now used in many scientific applications that have complex problems to solve. Similarly, Seidel found that his research would be greatly enhanced by using multiple supercomputing resources to solve very complex, computationally intense problems. He and his research team pursued solving these equations using supercomputers in different locations simultaneously, which led to breakthroughs in the field of grid computing.
Allen’s research work has focused on the development and application of scientific community software, including Cactus, Einstein Toolkit and Grid Application Toolkit. Although her work has predominantly been related to simulations of black holes, neutron stars and gravitational waves, her group’s software also has been applied in fields as diverse as petroleum engineering, computational chemistry, coastal modeling and computational fluid dynamics.
Parashar is director of the Scientific Computing and Imaging Institute and Presidential Professor in the University of Utah’s Kahlert School of Computing. He recently completed a term as office director of the National Science Foundation’s Office of Advanced Cyberinfrastructure, where he oversaw investments in national cyberinfrastructure.
Parashar’s research interests are in the broad areas of parallel and distributed computing and computational and data-enabled science and engineering. He has published extensively in these areas and has deployed software systems that are widely used.
Presenting in the same session with Seidel, Allen and Parashar were Eliu Huerta, lead for transitional artificial intelligence and senior scientist at Argonne National Laboratory and the University of Chicago; and Luciano Rezzolla, chair of theoretical astrophysics with the Institute for Theoretical Physics at Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany.
ISC High Performance 2023 attracted over 3,000 people from the world’s high-performance computing community to exchange vision, ideas and knowledge -- and dare one another to imagine a better tomorrow.