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Anything you can do, Guillimin can do better.

 

Quebec's new $9-million supercomputer can do everything better, faster and more efficiently than it's ever been done before, which has researchers here salivating over the chance to sink their data into the province's most powerful computing centre.

 

It may help air travel become safer, drug development become faster and cheaper and weather forecasting become more accurate. It may even answer the question about the existence of a 'God particle,' the Holy Grail of physics research.

 

The implications are astonishing, with researchers heralding breakthroughs in everything from nanotechnologies to climate research to brain imaging.

 

"This is a quantum leap in computing power," said Sangyong Jeon, interim science director of CLUMEQ, the supercomputer consortium network created by McGill University, Université Laval and the Université du Québec network, including the École de technologie supérieure, where the supercomputer is housed.

 

"Calculations that would have taken years to do will now take weeks. It's very exciting and very important for researchers."

 

Housed on the fourth floor of ÉTS, the blinking, humming supercomputer has a staff of five looking after it, holds information equivalent to 2 billion books and will build Canada's capacity for world-class research and technology development.

 

With help from the federal and provincial governments, along with IBM, McGill said the supercomputer cluster will be the second biggest in the country and leverage the processing power of industry data.

 

Guillimin - the name was inspired by the maiden name of the wife of James McGill, the founder of the university - has storage for a quadrillion bytes of information and has the computing power of 2,400 of the best computers.

 

(Okay, but how many friends does it have on Facebook?)

 

It is among the top 100 most powerful computers in the world and, when it doubles its capacity later this year with another $9 million of IBM computers, it will probably be among the top 50 computers in the world, said Jeon.

 

For that kind of money, it better not freeze up when you need it most. Jeon promises it won't.

 

"A lot of people will depend on this machine running perfectly, 24-7," he said.

 

Alan Evans oversees brain mapping clinical trials for the Montreal Neurological Institute, and he says he was first at the door when Guillimin opened for business in April.

 

He creates 3-D atlases of the brain to distinguish between normal and abnormal development and to recognize brain disorders such as Alzheimer's disease.

 

"We do massive amounts of mathematical analysis," said Evans. With the help of CLUMEQ, he said, he and his researchers have been able to obtain results previously beyond their reach and have hope for a better understanding of a multitude of disorders.

 

Top researchers gathered for the unveiling of the supercomputer on Tuesday all had similar stories.

 

Brigitte Vachon, a professor of physics, said the supercomputer will help her research group sift through a vast amount of data in the search for new physics phenomena such as the elusive Higgs boson, the so-called "god particle," which is believed to bestow mass on all other particles.

 

Nicolas Moitessier from the chemistry department said while it currently takes about 15 years and $1 billion to develop a new drug, the supercomputer will allow research to be done from a keyboard in a fraction of the time and at a fraction of the cost of current techniques.

 

And Victoria Kaspi from the physics department says her research into pulsars and black holes continues work along a path predicted by Einstein. She doesn't know exactly where this research will lead but she knows this:

 

"It's just so cool."

 

Read more: http://www.montrealgazette.com/technology/million+supercomputer+just+cool/4947908/story.html#ixzz1PNeR8W5L

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