Friday, June 4, 2010

Playing God

It's hard to describe my job without sounding like a deity-in-training. This is a shame since the glamor of the genuine situation is somewhat diminished by the stream of profanities I tend to spout at my code (it's quite amazing what you can make "Enzo"1 rhyme with if you truly dedicate yourself to the task). Explaining this to friends and family is often a disillusioning process and I really must say, putting a supercomputer IN A CHURCH is not helping my cause.

The MareNostrum supercomputer in Barcelona Spain was number four in the world when it first came online in 2005. It regained that status after an upgrade in 2006 and currently sits at number 87. It does, however, still top of the list in terms of beauty.

Installed in the deconsecrated chapel Torre Girona on the Polytechnic University of Catalonia campus, the computer sits in a highly air-conditioned clear box that fills the chapel's centre. The surrounding area is very warm, heated by the 10,240 CPUs contained within this machine. As part of the conference, we were offered a tour of the facility and were able to walk around the chapel and look down on the supercomputer from the balcony area. It is quite attractive and quite quite bizarre. Old stone archways and stained glass depicting Biblical scenes surround a high-tech national facility used for cutting edge research, including astrophysics.

All in all, it's a religion I feel I could get behind.... providing they keep upgrading of course.

[1 The name of the astrophysical code I insult work with.]

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