Biological Supercomputer

From George Dyson’s Turing’s Cathedral, relaying meteorologist/mathematician Lewis Fry Richardson’s description of a compound dedicated to the prediction of weather:

“After the war, Richardson published a detailed report, Weather Prediction by Numerical ProcessAt the end of his account, he envisioned partitioning the earth’s surface into 3,200 meteorological cells, relaying current observations by telegraph to the arched galleries and sunken amphitheater of a great hall, where some 64,000 human computers [people making calculations by hand] would continuously evaluate the equations governing each cell’s relations with its immediate neighbors, maintaining a numerical model of the atmosphere in real time.”

For some reason I imagine a giant geodesic dome with mountains in the background (the Banyan Bowl above is the closest approximation I could find).

Geological Supercomputer


From “Revelation Space” by Alistair Reynolds, describing what was once a neutron star but had become part black hole, part time portal, and part massive geological computer:

These ripples of causal shock met the incoming particles and established a grid of causal interference, a standing wave extending symmetrically into the past and the future.

Enmeshed in this grid, the collapsed object was no longer sure that it was meant to be a black hole.  The initial conditions had always been borderline, and perhaps these entanglements could be avoided if it remained poised above its Schwarzschild radius; if it collapsed down to a stable configuration of strange quarks and degenerate neutrons instead.

It flickered indeterminately between the two states.  The indeterminacy crystallized, and what remained behind was something unique in the universe – except that elsewhere, similar transformations were being wrought on other black holes, similar causal paradoxes coming into being.

The object settled on a stable configuration whereby its paradoxical nature was not immediately obvious to the outside universe.  Externally, it resembled a neutron star – for the first few centimeters of its crust, at least.  Below, the nuclear matter had been catalysed into intricate forms capable of lightning-swift computation, a self-organisation which had emerged spontaneously from the resolution of its two opposed states.  The crust seethed and processed, containing information at the theoretical maximum density of storage of matter, anywhere in the universe.

And it thought.

Below, the crust blended seamlessly with a flickering storm of unresolved possibility, as the interior of the collapsed object danced to the music of acausality.  While the crust ran endless simulations endless computations, the core bridged the future and the past, allowing information to channel effortlessly between them.  The crust, in effect, had become one of a massive parallel-processor, except that the other elements in its array were the future and past versions of itself.

From page 562.  Above image of Caseopeia A, a neutron star; image via NASA.

Every Nokia Tune… on a supercomputer

My first supercomputing job ran yesterday: the visualization of every possible combination of the notes of the Nokia Tune ringtone… all 6,227,020,800 of them!

Run using code written in Processing (with the help of Adam Caprez and Ashu Guru at the UNL Holland Computing Center) on the Open Science Grid of supercomputers, the result is ~311,000 image files, each with 20k permutations; the above image is a scant 3k permutations.

Very excited!