Under the sign of cosmic strings

The two-day User Day held from 20 – 21 September 2012 offered users an opportunity to exchange ideas intensively on their research and familiarise themselves with the new CSCS building. 

September 26, 2012 - By Simone Ulmer

The presentations and forty-two posters proved highly popular at the User Day (see link »). The posters displayed the broad spectrum of computer-based sciences. Researchers from cosmology, climate sciences, physics, materials science and biosciences showcased their research on posters and with short two-minute presentations. ETH-Zurich climate scientist Anna Possner won the best poster award. The doctoral student from Christoph Schär’s research group simulates regional atmospheric processes at a very high resolution to be able to model local processes such as cloud formations ».

Materials research meets cosmology

2012 User Day: Participants in the computer room

Materials researcher and ETH-Zurich professor Nicola Spaldin and doctoral student from Martin Kunz’s cosmology group David Daverio from University of Geneva met at the User Day and discovered that their research focus is one and the same, but that they approach the topic from entirely different perspectives and using completely different methods. They both study so-called cosmic strings – in other words, topological defects that are thought to have arisen at the origin of the universe.   

In her presentation entitled “From Transition Metal Oxides to Cosmic Strings” » , Spaldin explained how she endeavours to answer cosmological questions via the same symmetrical properties of metal oxides and those that prevailed during a particular period at the origin of the universe. Daverio and Kunz are looking to solve the very same issues with computer simulations of the origin of the universe. It was a pure coincidence that cosmic strings became a central theme at the User Day: one of the guest speakers had dropped out due to illness and Daverio » stood in for him at the last minute. During extensive discussions in the poster session, Spaldin and Daverio set the ball rolling for their first collaboration.

ETH-Zurich professor Petros Koumoutsakos impressed the audience with his talk about particle methods for flow simulations “High-Performance Computing for Flow Simulations Across Scales and Disciplines” ».

Outlook for the future

CSCS-Director Thomas Schulthess outlined what users can expect in terms of technical infrastructure in years to come and how CSCS envisages the future of high-performance computing. One important step will be the installation of the new Cray Cascade supercomputer » at the end of the year, which should be available to CSCS users from April and primarily features a communication network between the processors that is new on the market. The new supercomputer will form the basis for the development of the future supercomputer architecture at CSCS.