Dr. Joel R. Primack
As computing and observational power continue to increase rapidly, the most difficult problems in astrophysics are now coming within reach of simulations based on solid physics. Such problems include the formation and evolution of stars and supermassive black holes, and their interactions with their galactic environments.
The purpose of the University of California High-Performance AstroComputing Center (UC-HIPACC) is to realize the full potential of the University of California’s world-leading computational astrophysicists. This multidisciplinary effort links theoretical and observational astrophysicists, physicists, earth and planetary scientists, applied mathematicians, and computer scientists on all nine UC academic campuses and three affiliated national laboratories, and exploits California’s leadership in computers and related fields. UC-HiPACC fosters interactions and collaborations among the scientists as well as withthe rapidly increasing observational data. It empowers researchers to utilize efficiently the new supercomputers with hundreds of thousands of processors, both to understand astrophysical processes through computational simulation and to analyze the petabytes and soon exabytes of data that are flowing from new telescopesand sensors. UC-HIPACC’s outreach activities include developing educational materials, publicity, and websites, and distribution of simulation outputs— including visualizations that are beautiful as well as educational.
Individual UC campuses and national laboratory teams are fairly well funded—but we do not routinely share knowledge, postdocs, students, or computing resources. Because of the broad and complementary expertise within the entire UC system and affiliated national labs, much could be gained by promoting cross-fertilization as well as by fostering a tradition of systemwide collaborations. Such collaborations will increase not only our scientific success but also our opportunities to attract significant support. UC-HIPACC fosters interdisciplinary collaboration to advance the state of the art in computation and data storage and analysis, and it will develop industrial partnerships with CA companies such as Intel, Nvidia and Google. A long term goal is the creation of one or more major science institutes for projects such as the Thirty Meter Telescope, which would bring together theorists and observers to collaborate more closely in designing programs and instrumentation—and thereby also highlight California’s role in these projects.
We now live in the early stages of a revolution in computer-aided discovery, with ever-more-realistic simulations and with increasing ability to manipulate and extract hidden meanings in enormous sets of data. Within five years, exascale will be the frontier and petascale commonplace. Astrophysics is an ideal testbed for such computer-aided discovery because the data are clean, large, and growing rapidly; the data are non-commercial and largely non-proprietary; and astrophysics is interesting to both scientists and the public. What happens in UC-HIPACC can thus be a model for other fields.
We hope you will join us in this grand collaboration!