From Science Node: “How will we land on Mars?”

Science Node bloc
From Science Node

23 Oct, 2019
Katie Elyce Jones

The type of vehicle that will carry people to the Red Planet is shaping up to be “like a two-story house you’re trying to land on another planet. The heat shield on the front of the vehicle is just over 16 meters in diameter, and the vehicle itself, during landing, weighs tens of metric tons. It’s huge,” said Ashley Korzun, a research aerospace engineer at NASA’s Langley Research Center.

Safe descent. NASA research team uses Summit supercomputer to simulate a retropropulsion-powered descent to Mars’ surface. Courtesy Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility.

A vehicle for human exploration will weigh considerably more than the familiar, car-sized rovers like Curiosity, which have been deployed to the planetary surface by parachute.

NASA Mars Curiosity Rover

“You can’t use parachutes to land very large payloads on the surface of Mars,” Korzun said. “The physics just breaks down. You have to do something else.”

NASA expects humans to voyage to Mars by the mid- to late 2030s, so engineers have been at the drafting board for some time. Now, they have a promising solution in retropropulsion, or engine-powered deceleration.

“Instead of pushing you forward, retropropulsion engines slow you down, like brakes,” Korzun said.

Led by Eric Nielsen, a senior research scientist at NASA Langley, a team of scientists and engineers including Korzun is using Summit, the world’s fastest supercomputer at the US Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), to simulate retropropulsion for landing humans on Mars.

ORNL IBM AC922 SUMMIT supercomputer, No.1 on the TOP500. Credit: Carlos Jones, Oak Ridge National Laboratory/U.S. Dept. of Energy

1
A vehicle delivering humans to Mars will weigh much more than rovers like Curiosity which have been successfully deployed. Landing the heavier craft is an engineering challenge. Courtesy NASA.

“We’re able to demonstrate pretty revolutionary performance on Summit relative to what we were accustomed to with a conventional computing approach,” Nielsen said.

The team uses its computational fluid dynamics (CFD) code called FUN3D to model the vehicle’s Martian descent. CFD applications use large systems of equations to simulate the small-scale interactions of fluids (including gases) during flow and turbulence—in this case, to capture the aerodynamic effects created by the landing vehicle and the atmosphere.

“FUN3D and the computing capability itself have been completely game-changing, allowing us to move forward with technology development for retropropulsion, which has applications on Earth, the Moon, and Mars,” Korzun said.

Sticking the landing

NASA has already successfully deployed eight landers on Mars, including mobile science laboratories equipped with cameras, sensors, and communications devices—and researchers are familiar with the planet’s other-worldly challenges.

The Martian atmosphere is about 100 times thinner (less dense) than Earth’s, which results in a speedy descent from orbit—about 6 to 7 minutes rather than the 35- to 40-minute reentry time for Earth.

“We can’t match all of the relevant physics in ground or flight testing on Earth, so we’re very reliant on computational capability,” Korzun said. “This is really the first opportunity—at this level of fidelity and resolution—that we’ve been able to see what happens to the vehicle as it slows down with its engines on.”

During retropropulsion, the vehicle is sensitive to large variations in aerodynamic forces, which can impact engine performance and the crew’s ability to control and land the vehicle at a targeted location.

2
Snapshot of total temperature distribution at supersonic speed. Total temperature allows researchers to visualize the extent of the exhaust plumes which are much hotter than the surrounding atmosphere. Courtesy NASA.

The team needs a powerful supercomputer like the 200-petaflop Summit to simulate the entire vehicle as it navigates a range of atmospheric and engine conditions.

To predict what will happen in the Martian atmosphere and how the engines should be designed and controlled for the crew’s success and safety, researchers need to investigate unsteady and turbulent flows across length and time scales—from centimeters to kilometers and from fractions of a second to minutes.

To accurately replicate these faraway conditions, the team must model the large dimensions of the lander and its engines, the local atmospheric conditions, and the conditions of the engines along the descent trajectory.

On Summit, the team is modeling the lander at multiple points in its 6- to 7-minute descent. To characterize the flow behaviors across speeds ranging from supersonic to subsonic, researchers run ensembles (suites of individual simulations) to resolve fluid dynamics at a resolution of up to 10 billion elements with as much as 200 terabytes of information stored per run.

“One of the primary benefits of Summit for us is the sheer speed of the machine,” Nielsen said.

Celestial speed

Nielsen’s team spent several years optimizing FUN3D—a code that has advanced aerodynamic modeling for several decades—for new GPU technology using CUDA, a programming platform that serves as an intermediary between GPUs and traditional programming languages like C++.

By leveraging the speed of Summit’s GPUs, Nielsen’s team reports a 35-times increase in performance per compute node.

“We would typically wait 5 to 6 months to get an equivalent answer using CPU technology in a capacity environment, meaning lots of smaller runs. On Summit, we’re getting those answers in about 4 to 5 days,” he said. “Moreover, Summit enables us to perform 5 or 6 such simulations simultaneously, ultimately reducing turnaround time from 2 or 3 years to a work week.”

The research team includes visualization specialists at NASA’s Ames Research Center, who take the quantitative data and transform it into an action shot of what is happening.

“The visualization is a big takeaway from the Summit capability, which has enabled us to capture very small flow structures as well as really large flow structures,” Korzun said. “I can see what is happening right at the rocket engine nozzle exit, as well as tens of meters ahead in the direction the vehicle is traveling.”

As the team members continue to collect new Summit data, they are thinking about the next steps to designing a human exploration vehicle for Mars.

“Even though we are returning to the Moon, NASA’s long-term objective is the human exploration of the surface of Mars. These results are informing testing, such as wind tunnel testing, that we’ll be doing in the next couple of years,” Korzun said. “So this data will be useful for a very long time.”

See the full article here .


five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings
Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

Stem Education Coalition

Science Node is an international weekly online publication that covers distributed computing and the research it enables.

“We report on all aspects of distributed computing technology, such as grids and clouds. We also regularly feature articles on distributed computing-enabled research in a large variety of disciplines, including physics, biology, sociology, earth sciences, archaeology, medicine, disaster management, crime, and art. (Note that we do not cover stories that are purely about commercial technology.)

In its current incarnation, Science Node is also an online destination where you can host a profile and blog, and find and disseminate announcements and information about events, deadlines, and jobs. In the near future it will also be a place where you can network with colleagues.

You can read Science Node via our homepage, RSS, or email. For the complete iSGTW experience, sign up for an account or log in with OpenID and manage your email subscription from your account preferences. If you do not wish to access the website’s features, you can just subscribe to the weekly email.”

#how-will-we-land-on-mars, #fun3d-computational-fluid-dynamics-cfd-code, #mars-exploration, #nasa-expects-humans-to-voyage-to-mars-by-the-mid-to-late-2030s, #ornl, #retropropulsion-powered-descent-to-mars-surface, #science-node, #summit-supercomputer

From Science Node: “Can academia work with industry?”

Science Node bloc
From Science Node

07 Oct, 2019
Alisa Alering

AI and the data explosion means industry needs academic HPC more than ever.

As data accumulates at breakneck speed and demand for AI innovation grows, some of the world’s most prominent companies are looking to high-performance computing (HPC) to solve their toughest problems. Academic research centers have the compute power and the expert know-how to make those solutions a reality. But can these disparate sectors successfully work together?

To find out, we talk with Brendan McGinty, director of the pioneering industry program at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA). Heading up a program with 30+ years of experience partnering with Fortune 50 companies, McGinty is well-placed to tell academic HPC centers why they might want to consider industry partnerships—and what to watch out for.

1
Brendan McGinty, director of NCSA Industry, says that big data and AI are driving the demand for academic HPC resources from companies in many sectors.

First, tell us a little bit about how the NCSA Industry program came to be.

NCSA Industry, formerly known as the Private Sector Program (PSP) was formed in 1986, shortly after NCSA’s founding. We help companies address their largest and most significant challenges by leveraging our experts and compute resources in advanced HPC.

The program has grown 400% in just the past 2.5 years. This is thanks to (1) the data deluge currently impacting nearly every large company and (2) emphasizing our expertise, where our consultative nature leads to further partnerships with companies. In turn, a byproduct of good consulting has been growth in compute use and revenue as well.

Why should academic HPC centers partner with industry?

Industry provides the significant challenges that academia loves—and massive datasets to boot. Academics and other professionals learn how to interact with companies who provide unique funding sources to academic institutions.

Perhaps more important than the scientific challenge is the career training and opportunities that students receive by engaging with companies and their projects. This is a perfect fit for the ever-growing, data-driven talent being developed by institutions of higher education.

HPC centers are key to the development of this partnered ecosystem. Industry’s large datasets and need for sophisticated solutions requires the expertise to scale or leverage AI and the compute on which to run associated jobs that HPC centers can provide.

Why do companies want to work with academia?

Academic institutions are an independent, not-for-profit source of expertise that matches industrial needs. They’re also quite affordable, with labor rates below those of typical for-profit consulting firms. In many cases, expertise comes in the form of PhDs which further legitimize R&D efforts in for-profit companies.

And, as has long been the case, companies align with universities for access to their future talent base. Working together provides a space to engage in a mutual vetting that ensures finding the best students to meet future corporate needs.

Can you point to any particularly successful partnerships at NCSA?

With over 30 years to choose from and many world records set and Top Supercomputing Achievement awards received, finding just one success story is a challenge. We’ve helped—and continue to help—improve many sectors including healthcare, energy, finance, transportation, insurance, and others.


In a 30-year history of working with industry, NCSA has partnered with companies in many sectors including healthcare, energy, finance, transportation, insurance.

From the standpoint of industrial benefit, a recent success involved a well-known and public story about our work with ExxonMobil. A simulation they developed to model oil reservoirs was running on their large, on-premise cluster in Houston—and taking 3.5 months to complete.

They approached NCSA to optimize and scale their existing code to run on Blue Waters, the massively parallel National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded machine with a small industrial allocation, perfectly architected for ExxonMobil’s needs.

NCSA U Illinois Urbana-Champaign Blue Waters Cray Linux XE/XK hybrid machine supercomputer

Our work resulted in using nearly all of Blue Waters in a 720,000 thread run that executed in ten minutes. What did it mean to ExxonMobil in terms of return-on-investment (ROI)? They said that number was over USD $1 billion.

What are some things academic institutions should know in order to work successfully with industry partners?

We have learned many lessons by working with companies in our public-private type of partnership, including:

Each company is unique—one size does not fit all. Provide customized solutions.
It’s not about our solutions—it’s about their needs. Understand their challenges and match solutions.
Companies generally have very little time. Make your value proposition efficiently and know your audience.
Work as closely as possible to the pace of the company, which is faster than that of higher education.
Help companies calculate efficiencies and ROIs. It leads to follow-on engagements.
Be consultative. Higher education has great solutions. Companies care about what will address their needs first.

What do you see for the future of these types of partnerships?

Three years ago, we weren’t talking about artificial intelligence (AI) solutions for companies. Now, it seems that every company with which we engage has, at the very least, interest in if not high levels of activity, in AI/machine learning (ML)/deep learning (DL)/geospatial solutions.

Three years ago, we also weren’t talking about the impact of graphics processing units (GPUs) in performance. Now, GPUs are either mixed with or replacing CPUs to run HPC jobs.

We must help companies, whether established or new, larger or smaller, to innovate to ensure their competitiveness and, perhaps, survival.

It is obvious based on the data explosion that hardware is changing rapidly, with software, as it typically does, lagging slightly behind. We need to help companies to push the proverbial envelope by helping hardware and software providers to do the same, with groups like ours being the trusted consultant along the way.

See the full article here .


five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings
Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

Stem Education Coalition

Science Node is an international weekly online publication that covers distributed computing and the research it enables.

“We report on all aspects of distributed computing technology, such as grids and clouds. We also regularly feature articles on distributed computing-enabled research in a large variety of disciplines, including physics, biology, sociology, earth sciences, archaeology, medicine, disaster management, crime, and art. (Note that we do not cover stories that are purely about commercial technology.)

In its current incarnation, Science Node is also an online destination where you can host a profile and blog, and find and disseminate announcements and information about events, deadlines, and jobs. In the near future it will also be a place where you can network with colleagues.

You can read Science Node via our homepage, RSS, or email. For the complete iSGTW experience, sign up for an account or log in with OpenID and manage your email subscription from your account preferences. If you do not wish to access the website’s features, you can just subscribe to the weekly email.”

#can-academia-work-with-industry, #ai-and-the-data-explosion-means-industry-needs-academic-hpc-more-than-ever, #companies-align-with-universities-for-access-to-their-future-talent-base, #hpc-centers-are-key-to-the-development-of-this-partnered-ecosystem, #in-a-30-year-history-of-working-with-industry-ncsa-has-partnered-with-companies-in-many-sectors-including-healthcare-energy-finance-transportation-insurance, #ncsa-national-center-for-supercomputing-applications, #science-node, #some-of-the-worlds-most-prominent-companies-are-looking-to-high-performance-computing-hpc-to-solve-their-toughest-problems, #three-years-ago-we-also-werent-talking-about-the-impact-of-graphics-processing-units-gpus-in-performance, #three-years-ago-we-werent-talking-about-artificial-intelligence-ai-solutions-for-companies

From Science Node: Women in STEM-“Don’t worry about the software” Mona Wong

Science Node bloc
From Science Node

09 Sep, 2019
Alisa Alering

Science gateway developer Mona Wong combines passion for programming with love of science.

Have you ever set out to accomplish a new task but quickly discovered that it required new equipment? And then you had to learn how to use the equipment before you could move on, and before long you were bogged down in online instructional videos and wondering why you ever thought this was a good idea?


Mona Wong develops online gateways that help scientists reach their goals without worrying about how to install and run complex software.

That same thing can happen to scientists, particularly when they want to access new technologies to expedite their work. The hurdle can be especially big for researchers in fields like biology or the humanities, that don’t traditionally provide technological training.

Enter Mona Wong, a software engineer at the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC).

SDSC Triton HP supercomputer

SDSC Gordon-Simons supercomputer

SDSC Dell Comet supercomputer

Wong works behind-the-scenes to develop online gateways that help scientists reach their goals—whether that’s a better understanding of how the brain works or more accurate predictions of natural disasters.

A science gateway is a tool that makes data, resources, or custom scientific workflows easier to use via a point-and-click web interface—no command lines or programming languages to learn.

“Gateways allow people to not have to worry about the software and how to install and run it, to be able to try things,” says Wong. “I get to use what’s fun and easy for me to help scientists discover something.”

Solving problems for scientists

One way that Wong helps expand access to science is through her work with the Extended Developer Support (EDS) group at the Science Gateways Community Institute (SGCI). Funded by the National Science Foundation, SGCI is a clearinghouse of support for developing, operating, and sustaining science gateways.

In her role with EDS, Wong works on multiple gateways—often serving entirely different domains. When someone is interested in building a gateway, they apply to EDS. If they’re selected to receive support, they’re assigned to a developer who then meets with the principal investigator and comes up with a work plan for the engagement.

One of her recent projects is the COSMIC2 Gateway which focuses on structural biology, a field currently undergoing something of a revolution. Structural biologists use cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) to examine the structures of proteins and other macromolecular samples at near-atomic resolution.

Cryo-Electron Microscope. No image credit.

Cryo-EM is an invaluable tool for understanding human health and disease, but its widespread use is hindered by the incredibly large size of the datasets the equipment generates.

In Cryo-EM, scientists use the microscope to collect images of a frozen specimen at increasing depths. The images are then reconstructed into a 3D representation of the original structure.

The final images constitute very large datasets, currently up to 12K by 8K for a single image.

Because the microscopes are very expensive instruments, scientists must wait to be allocated time, and when they get access, they collect as many images as they can, generating massive amounts of data at one time—up to tens of terabytes.

Many biologists aren’t familiar with handling such large datasets or have the computing resources to do the calculations. That’s where a gateway comes in.

4
Resolution revolution. The blob-like area on the left of this cryo-EM composite image of beta-galactosidase would have been considered state-of-the-art just a few years ago. The detailed structure on the right shows >10x greater resolution thanks to technological improvement and advanced computational methods. Courtesy Veronica Falconieri, Subramaniam Lab, National Cancer Institute.

“The user uploads their data to the gateway and sets up parameters for their computational task,” says Wong. “Once the task is initiated by the user, the gateway will generate and submit the commands to the software running on the supercomputer to perform the calculations. The user is notified when the job is done, and they come back to the gateway to view the results.”

One additional challenge with such large datasets, is how to reliably transfer the data from the scientist’s lab to the supercomputer that does the heavy lifting and back again.

“If you have only one gigabyte of data and the transfer dies halfway through, you can start again,” says Wong. But that’s not a great solution when you’re dealing with multiple terabytes that can take days or weeks to transfer. That’s why COSMIC2and other gateways use the Globus platform for secure data transfer.

“The great thing about Globus is if there’s a problem in the middle, it can restart from there,” says Wong. “At the end, it has mechanisms in place that check the data to make sure it wasn’t corrupted. In theory, you don’t have to worry about it.”

Make the code do something

Toiling behind-the-scenes might seem like thankless work, but Wong sees her role as actively supporting scientific discovery. She has always loved science, but her own unique path became clear when she took her first computer science course.

“I discovered that it was actually easy for me,” she says. “It fits the way I think, and it’s also very creative, because you take code and you make it help you do something.”

And the ‘something’ she is doing hasn’t gone unnoticed. Wong received the Young Professionals Award at the SGCI’s Gateways 2018 conference, which recognizes notable achievement in the advancement of science gateways.

“It’s a great honor, a way to acknowledge the work that you do and the promise you hold for the community,” says Wong. “But I also sense a kind of responsibility.”

That responsibility isn’t just to scientists. The use of science gateways is expanding as more research areas are discovering what can be accomplished with access to supercomputing power. Their ease of use allows even school children to learn about advanced scientific resources without worrying about how to install and run complex software—which just makes Wong’s work all the more rewarding.

“I love that gateways are used a lot now in teaching students about science,” says Wong. “I love science, so I think that the more people who love science, the better.”

See the full article here .


five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings
Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

Stem Education Coalition

Science Node is an international weekly online publication that covers distributed computing and the research it enables.

“We report on all aspects of distributed computing technology, such as grids and clouds. We also regularly feature articles on distributed computing-enabled research in a large variety of disciplines, including physics, biology, sociology, earth sciences, archaeology, medicine, disaster management, crime, and art. (Note that we do not cover stories that are purely about commercial technology.)

In its current incarnation, Science Node is also an online destination where you can host a profile and blog, and find and disseminate announcements and information about events, deadlines, and jobs. In the near future it will also be a place where you can network with colleagues.

You can read Science Node via our homepage, RSS, or email. For the complete iSGTW experience, sign up for an account or log in with OpenID and manage your email subscription from your account preferences. If you do not wish to access the website’s features, you can just subscribe to the weekly email.”

#applied-research-technology, #basic-research, #cryo-electron-microscopy, #mona-wong-san-diego-supercomputer-center, #online-gateways, #science-node, #supercomputing, #women-in-stem

From Science Node: Women in STEM-“The citizen scientists of hidden America” Ruby Mendenhall

Science Node bloc
From Science Node

03 July, 2019
Alisa Alering

1
This health study in Chicago recruits subjects to also be the scientists.

When you read the words ‘citizen scientist’, what do you picture? Maybe backyard astronomers helping to classify distant galaxies, or fifth graders recording soil temperatures to track climate change.

But Ruby Mendenhall, assistant dean for diversity and democratization of health innovation at the Carle Illinois College of Medicine, has a different idea of what citizen science can do—and who can participate.

Mendenhall used a 2017-2018 NCSA Faculty Fellowship to examine how exposure to nearby gun crimes impacts African-American mothers living in Englewood, Chicago. Home to about 30,000 people, Englewood has a reputation as one of the most violent neighborhoods in the city.

Beyond the physical effects of stress, Mendenhall wanted to investigate the long-term consequences experienced by women living in communities like Englewood. For example, what happens to a parent when the sound of gunshots is common during the day—and especially at night?

Here’s where the citizen science comes in. The women of Englewood aren’t just subjects in this research, they’re active participants.

“We wanted to put more agency in their hands,” says Mendenhall. “We asked them, ‘What would you like to see solved? What’s an issue that you have? How can we study this?’”

From subjects to scientists

Mendenhall sees citizen science as a way to address health disparities and social inequality. Though many citizen science projects focus on topics like backyard biology, it’s an existing framework that can be applied to community-based participatory research in health and medicine.

“These are citizen scientists who can take knowledge of their own lived experience and create new knowledge about Black women and families,” says Mendenhall. “We hope they can help us make medical advances around depression, PTSD, and how the body responds to stress.”

Mendenhall wanted to put more agency in the hands of the women, transforming them from study subjects into participating scientists. The researchers asked what the women wanted to see solved, what issues they were concerned about, and how it might be studied.

Mendenhall then teamed up with computer scientist Kiel Gilleade to design a mobile health study that documented the women’s experience via wearable biosensors, phone GPS, and diary-keeping.

Given historical problems with mistrust of the medical community—and with good reason—Mendenhall was concerned that the participants wouldn’t agree to let researchers take samples of their blood (for a separate study) to see how stress affected the genes that regulate the immune system.

But, somewhat to her surprise, the women agreed. One of the reasons the women gave for their willingness to participate was that they recognized the impact stress was having on their bodies.

“They talked about having headaches, backaches, stomachaches, many things,” says Mendenhall. “They were interested in what was going on with their bodies, what was the connection.”

Asking the right questions

2
Whose voice is not represented? Mendenhall presented her keynote address, Using Advanced Computing to Recover Black Women’s Lost History, at the PEARC18 conference in Pittsburgh, in July 2018.

Mendenhall hasn’t always engaged with computation to further her research. She started her academic career in African-American studies and sociology. But when faculty from NCSA visited her department, Mendenhall became intrigued by the possibilities of big data.

“I didn’t change the research I was interested in, I didn’t change my focus on Black women and their agency and their lived experiences on the margins of society,” says Mendenhall. “What I did was expand my toolkit and my ability to answer questions—and even to ask different questions.”

Some of the questions she’s asking are: Whose voice may not be represented? Whose lived experience isn’t represented? If they were, how would what we see be different? Mendenhall believes that scholars of all types can benefit from putting more time and energy into asking questions like these.

“I think it’s important to understand that big data is not neutral, it is not objective,” says Mendenhall. “Data is situated within a historical and political context.”

Despite biases in existing collections of data, Mendenhall believes data can also be applied to help equalize the historical record.

“I think big data has great potential if more voices are brought in,” says Mendenhall. “If everyone’s voice can be heard and seen and studied and digitized. And if Black women can also study it themselves and develop ideas about what that data is representing.”

The study about Black women in Englewood followed only twelve women but the next step will be to expand the pool of citizen scientists to 600 or more.

“Ideally, I’m thinking about 100,000 citizen scientists or all the women in Chicago. If they could all be citizen scientists—then what would we see?”

Mendenhall is currently at work on a funding proposal to create a Communiversity Think-and-Do Tank where researchers and citizen scientists will work together to address grand challenges (e.g., gun violence, Black infant and maternal mortality, mental health, diverse histories in the digital archives, etc.) She hopes this will be one avenue to get her closer to her goal of 100,000 citizen scientists.

See the full article here .


five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings
Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

Stem Education Coalition

Science Node is an international weekly online publication that covers distributed computing and the research it enables.

“We report on all aspects of distributed computing technology, such as grids and clouds. We also regularly feature articles on distributed computing-enabled research in a large variety of disciplines, including physics, biology, sociology, earth sciences, archaeology, medicine, disaster management, crime, and art. (Note that we do not cover stories that are purely about commercial technology.)

In its current incarnation, Science Node is also an online destination where you can host a profile and blog, and find and disseminate announcements and information about events, deadlines, and jobs. In the near future it will also be a place where you can network with colleagues.

You can read Science Node via our homepage, RSS, or email. For the complete iSGTW experience, sign up for an account or log in with OpenID and manage your email subscription from your account preferences. If you do not wish to access the website’s features, you can just subscribe to the weekly email.”

#citizen-science, #ruby-mendenhall, #science-node, #women-in-stem

From Science Node: “Why does AI fascinate us?”

Science Node bloc

10 June, 2019
Alisa Alering

1

Ted Chiang talks about how our love for fictional AI interacts with the real-world use of artificial intelligence.

Why do you think we are fascinated by AI?

People have been interested in artificial beings for a very long time. Ever since we’ve had lifelike statues, we’ve imagined how they might behave if they were actually alive. More recently, our ideas of how robots might act are shaped by our perception of how good computers are at certain tasks. The earliest calculating machines did things like computing logarithm tables more accurately than people could. The fact that machines became capable of doing a task which we previously associated with very smart people made us think that the machines were, in some sense, like very smart people.

How does our—let’s call it shared human mythology—of AI interact with the real forms of artificial intelligence we encounter in the world today?

The fact that we use the term “artificial intelligence” creates associations in the public imagination which might not exist if the software industry used some other term. AI has, in science fiction, referred to a certain trope of androids and robots, so when the software industry uses the same term, it encourages us to personify software even more than we normally would.

Is there a big difference between our fictional imaginary consumption of AI and what’s actually going on in current technology?

2
Intelligent machines. ‘Maria’ was the first robot to be depicted on film, in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927). Courtesy Jeremy Tarling. (CC BY-SA 2.0)

I think there’s a huge difference. In our fictional imagination “artificial intelligence” refers to something that is, in many ways, like a person. It’s a very rigid person, but we still think of it as a person. But nothing that we have in the software industry right now is remotely like a person—not even close. It’s very easy for us to attribute human-like characteristics to software, but that’s more of a reflection of our cognitive biases. It doesn’t say anything about the properties that the software itself possesses.

What’s happening now or in the near future with intelligent systems that really captures your interest?

What I find most interesting is not typically described as AI, but with the phrase ‘artificial life.’ Some researchers are creating digital organisms with bodies and sense organs that allow them to move around and navigate their environment. Usually there’s some mechanism where they can give rise to slightly different versions of themselves, and thus evolve over time. This avenue of research is really interesting because it could eventually result in software entities which have a lot of the properties that we associate with living organisms. It’s still going to be a long ways from anything that we consider intelligent, but it’s a very interesting avenue of research.

Over time, these entities might come to have the intelligence of an insect. Even that would be pretty impressive, because even an insect is good at a lot of things which Watson (IBM’s AI supercomputer) can’t do at all. An insect can navigate its environment and look for food and avoid danger. A lot of the things that we call common sense are outgrowths of the fact that we have bodies and live in the physical world. If a digital organism could have some of that, that would be a way of laying the groundwork for an artificial intelligence to eventually have common sense.

How do we teach an artificial intelligence the things we consider common sense?

Alan Turing once wrote that he didn’t know what would be the best way to create a thinking machine; it might involve teaching it abstract activities like chess, or it might involve giving it eyes and a body and teaching it the way you’d teach a child. He thought both would be good avenues to explore.

Historically, we’ve only tried that first route, and that has led to this idea that common sense is hard to teach or that artificial intelligence lack common sense. I think if we had gone with the second route, we’d have a different view of things.

If you want an AI to be really good at playing chess, we have got that problem licked. But if you want something that can navigate your living room without constantly bumping into a coffee table, that’s a completely different challenge. If you want to solve that one, you’re going to need a different approach than what we’ve used for solving the grandmaster-level chess-playing problem.

My cat’s really good in the living room but not so good at chess.

Exactly. Because your cat grew up with eyes and a physical body.

Since you’re someone who (presumably) spends a lot of time thinking about the social and philosophical aspects of AI, what do you think the creators of artificial beings should be concerned about?

I think it’s important for all of us to think about the greater context in which the work we do takes place. When people say, “I was just doing my job,” we tend not to consider that a good excuse when doing that job leads to bad moral outcomes.

When you as a technologist are being asked how to solve a problem, it’s worth thinking about, “Why am I being asked to solve this problem? In whose interest is it to solve this problem?” That’s something we all need to be thinking about no matter what sort of work we do.

Otherwise, if everyone simply keeps their head down and just focuses narrowly on the task at hand, then nothing changes.

See the full article here .


five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings
Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

Stem Education Coalition

Science Node is an international weekly online publication that covers distributed computing and the research it enables.

“We report on all aspects of distributed computing technology, such as grids and clouds. We also regularly feature articles on distributed computing-enabled research in a large variety of disciplines, including physics, biology, sociology, earth sciences, archaeology, medicine, disaster management, crime, and art. (Note that we do not cover stories that are purely about commercial technology.)

In its current incarnation, Science Node is also an online destination where you can host a profile and blog, and find and disseminate announcements and information about events, deadlines, and jobs. In the near future it will also be a place where you can network with colleagues.

You can read Science Node via our homepage, RSS, or email. For the complete iSGTW experience, sign up for an account or log in with OpenID and manage your email subscription from your account preferences. If you do not wish to access the website’s features, you can just subscribe to the weekly email.”

#ai-artificial-intelligence, #science-node, #ted-chiang

From Science Node: “5 ways technology is making the world more accessible”

Science Node bloc
From Science Node

22 May, 2019
Laura Reed

Accessibility goes mainstream as the world ages.

Inventors have been finding ways to help people overcome disabilities for centuries. Ear trumpets boosted hearing in the 17th century. In the 1820s, Louis Braille devised a system that allowed the blind to read through their sense of touch.

Innovations and legislation in the 20th century increased access to employment, entertainment, and information. But one in four US adults currently have a disability that significantly impacts their life. Can new technology provide some 21st-century solutions?

1. Self-driving cars? How about self-driving wheelchairs?

The world’s population is aging fast. The number of people in the US aged 65 and over is projected to increase from 48 million to 88 million by 2050. Similar demographic shifts are happening worldwide—and that means a lot of people will face challenges with mobility.


Self-driving wheelchairs use lidar sensors to measure the distance to an object and can build a map after being manually driven around the area where it will be used. Courtesy SMART Comms.

Autonomous wheelchairs could be the answer. That’s why Samsung, MIT, Northwestern University, and others are borrowing technology from self-driving cars to develop self-driving wheelchairs. Equipped with lidar sensors that measure the distance to an object by illuminating that object with a laser light, the wheelchair builds a map after being manually driven around the area where it will be used. After that, the user will be able to select where they want to go by clicking on the map.

One company, the Toronto-based Cyberworks has a prototype chair that should be available for purchase in a few years. Self-driving wheelchairs could be the key to independent living for millions of people with disabilities.

2. Helping farmers stay in the field

2
Disabled farmers need help staying in the fields. AgriAbility is a US national program that maintains a database of solutions from harvesting aids to equipment for adaptive horseback riding. Courtesy AgriAbility.

When you’re in the grocery store, do you ever think about where your food comes from? According to a recent study, one in five farmers in the US has some type of disability. In addition, the average age of the American farmer is 57. Ailments associated with aging often impair a farmer’s ability to work.

That’s why in 1990 the US government funded an assistive technology program, AgriAbility, to help disabled farmers. Its Assistive Technology Database is an index of over 1,400 solutions to problems faced by farmers such as harvesting aids, calving and calf care equipment, and accessories for adaptive horseback riding. Each solution offered in the database shows the cost of the technology along with the physical limitations the tech addresses. Other resources on the AgriAbility website include online training, links to state projects, and resources on many health care issues.

3. The power of thought

For most of us, the entire world is just a tap or a swipe away on our smartphones. But that isn’t the case for people who have upper body impairments or paralysis. Fortunately, researchers are working on technology that will allow users to control a mobile device with their thoughts.

In a recent clinical trial of a brain-computer interface (BCI) called BrainGate, researchers implanted microelectrode arrays into the part of the brain that controls hand movement.

The participants thought about moving their hands, and the BCI learned to translate the brain activity into actions on an Android tablet.

Participants were eventually able to use the tablet to check and respond to email, search the internet, read news, and stream music. The researchers believe interfaces like BrainGate may enable people with degenerative conditions like ALS to communicate with others and participate in everyday activities.

4. Reading the signs

In a perfect world, a sign language interpreter would be at the ready any time a deaf or hard of hearing person needed them. But some institutions such as hospitals and courts use Video Remote Interpreting to save money. Unfortunately, the facial gestures and body movements that convey meaning in sign language may be lost when delivered in a video feed.

That’s why research is underway to develop a tool that can convert sign language to speech in audio or text format. Two University of Washington students have developed a system that lets people fluent in American Sign Language (ASL) communicate with non-signers. SignAloud uses gloves designed to recognize ASL gestures. The gloves send data to a computer for processing. Then the word or phrase associated with the gesture is spoken through a speaker.

With a similar glove-based product called BrightSign Glove, users record and name their own gestures to go with specific words or phrases. The product aims to sidestep the need for facial cues and body motions. Another version of BrightSign will send translations directly to the glove wearer’s smartphone. The phone can then vocalize the words and phrases.

5. This AI will help you “see”

Since the end of World War I, people who are blind or visually impaired have been using the “white cane,” or “long cane” to detect obstacles and scan for orientation marks. Now, thanks to Google AI, there’s an app for that.

Google Lookout is an app that runs on Pixel devices in the US. It uses image recognition technology similar to that of Google Lens to assist users in learning about a new space, reading documents, and completing activities like cooking and shopping. The app detects an object, guesses what it is and tells the user about it. Google recommends that users attach the device to a lanyard worn around the neck, or in the front pocket of a shirt. Once opened, the app requires no further input. Google says it hopes to bring the app to more countries and platforms soon.

See the full article here .


five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings
Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

Stem Education Coalition

Science Node is an international weekly online publication that covers distributed computing and the research it enables.

“We report on all aspects of distributed computing technology, such as grids and clouds. We also regularly feature articles on distributed computing-enabled research in a large variety of disciplines, including physics, biology, sociology, earth sciences, archaeology, medicine, disaster management, crime, and art. (Note that we do not cover stories that are purely about commercial technology.)

In its current incarnation, Science Node is also an online destination where you can host a profile and blog, and find and disseminate announcements and information about events, deadlines, and jobs. In the near future it will also be a place where you can network with colleagues.

You can read Science Node via our homepage, RSS, or email. For the complete iSGTW experience, sign up for an account or log in with OpenID and manage your email subscription from your account preferences. If you do not wish to access the website’s features, you can just subscribe to the weekly email.”

#5-ways-technology-is-making-the-world-more-accessible, #1-self-driving-cars-how-about-self-driving-wheelchairs, #2-helping-farmers-stay-in-the-field, #3-the-power-of-thought, #4-reading-the-signs, #5-this-ai-will-help-you-see, #science-node

From Science Node: Women in STEM- “Shining a light on cosmic darkness” Debora Sijacki

Science Node bloc
From Science Node

08 May, 2019
Alisa Alering

1
Debora Sijacki. Courtesy David Orr.

Award-winning astrophysicist Debora Sijacki wants to understand how galaxies form.

Carl Sagan once described the Earth as a “pale blue dot, a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark.”

The need to shine a light into that cosmic darkness has long inspired astronomers to investigate the wonders that lie beyond our lonely planet. For Debora Sijacki, a reader in astrophysics and cosmology at the University of Cambridge, her curiosity takes the form of simulating galaxies in order to understand their origins.

2
A supermassive black hole at the center of a young, star-rich galaxy. SMBHs distort space and light around them, as illustrated by the warped stars behind the black hole. Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech.

“We human beings are a part of our Universe and we ultimately want to understand where we came from,” says Sijacki. “We want to know what is this bigger picture that we are taking part in.”

Sijacki is the winner of the 2019 PRACE Ada Lovelace Award for HPC for outstanding contributions to and impact on high-performance computing (HPC). Initiated in 2016, the award recognizes female scientists working in Europe who have an outstanding impact on HPC research and who provide a role model for other women.

Specifically, Sijacki wants to understand the role supermassive black holes (SMBH) play in galaxy formation. These astronomical objects are so immense that they contain mass on the order of hundreds of thousands to even billions of times the mass of the Sun. At the same time they are so compact that, if the Earth were a black hole, it would fit inside a penny.

The first image of a black hole, Messier 87 Credit Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration, via NSF and ERC 4.10.19

SMBHs are at the center of many massive galaxies—there’s even one at the center of our own galaxy, The Milky Way. Astronomers theorize that these SMBHs are important not just in their own right but because they affect the properties of the galaxies themselves.

Sgr A* from ESO VLT


SGR A* ,the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way. NASA’s Chandra X-Ray Observatory

“What we think happens is that when gas accretes very efficiently and draws close to the SMBH it eventually falls into the SMBH,” says Sijacki. “The SMBH then grows in mass, but at the same time this accretion process is related to an enormous release of energy that can actually change the properties of galaxies themselves.”

A big universe needs big computing

To investigate the interplay of these astronomical phenomena, Sijacki and her team create simulations where they can zoom into details of SMBHs while at the same time viewing a large patch of the Universe. This allows them to focus on the physics of how black holes influence galaxies and even larger environments.

3
Dark matter density (l) transitioning to gas density (r). Large-scale projection through the Illustris volume at z=0, centered on the most massive galaxy cluster of the Illustris cosmological simulation. Courtesy Illustris Simulation.

But in order to study something as big as the Universe, you need a big computer. Or several. As a Hubble Fellow at Harvard University, Sijacki accessed HPC resources through XSEDE in the US and PRACE in Europe. She now uses the UK’s National Computing Service DiRAC in combination with PRACE.

4

DiRAC is the UK’s integrated supercomputing facility for theoretical modelling and HPC-based research in particle physics, astronomy and cosmology.

PRACE supercomputing resources

Hazel Hen, GCS@HLRS, Cray XC40 supercomputer Germany

JOLIOT CURIE of GENCI Atos BULL Sequana system X1000 supercomputer France

JUWELS, GCS@FZJ, Atos supercomputer Germany

MARCONI, CINECA, Lenovo NeXtScale supercomputer Italy

MareNostrum Lenovo supercomputer of the National Supercomputing Center in Barcelona

Cray Piz Daint Cray XC50/XC40 supercomputer of the Swiss National Supercomputing Center (CSCS)

SuperMUC-NG, GCS@LRZ, Lenovo supercomputer Germany

According to Sijacki, in the 70s, 80s, and 90s, astrophysicists laid the foundations of galaxy formation and developed some of the key ideas that still guide our understanding. But it was soon recognized that these theories needed to be refined—or even refuted.

“There is only so much we can do with the pen-and-paper approach,” says Sijacki. “The equations we are working on are very complex and we have to solve them numerically. And it’s not just a single physical process, but many different mechanisms that we want to explain. Often when you put different bits of complex physics together, you can’t easily predict the outcome.”

The other motivation for high-performance computing is the need for higher resolution models. This is because the physics in the real Universe occurs on a vast range of scales.

“We’re talking about billions and trillions of resolution elements,” says Sijacki. “It requires massive parallel calculations on thousands of cores to evolve this really complex system with many resolution elements.”

In recent years, high-performance computing resources have become more powerful and more widely available. New architectures and novel algorithms promise even greater efficiency and optimized parallelization.

4
Jet feedback from active galactic nuclei. (A) Large-scale image of the gas density centered on a massive galaxy cluster. (B) High-velocity jet launched by the central supermassive black hole. (C) Cold disk-like structure around the SMBH from which black hole is accreting. (D) 2D Voronoi mesh reconstruction and (E) velocity streamline map of a section of the jet, illustrating massive increase in spatial resolution achieved by this simulation. Courtesy Bourne, Sijacki, and Puchwein.

Given these advances, Sijacki projects a near-future where astrophysicists can, for the first time, perform simulations that can consistently track individual stars in a given galaxy and follow that galaxy within a cosmological framework.

“Full predictive models of the evolution of our Universe is our ultimate goal,” says Sijacki. “We would like to have a theory that is completely predictive, free of ill-constrained parameters, where we can theoretically understand how the Universe was built and how the structures in the Universe came about. This is our guiding star.”

Awards matter

When asked about the significance of the award, Sijacki says that she is proud to have her research recognized—and to be associated with the name of Ada Lovelace.

Perhaps more importantly, the award has already had an immediate effect on the female PhD students and post-docs at Cambridge’s Institute of Astronomy. Sijacki says the recognition motivates the younger generations of female scientists, by showing them that this is a possible career path that leads to success and recognition.

“I have seen how my winning this award makes them more enthusiastic—and more ambitious,” says Sijacki. “I was really happy to see that.”

See the full article here .


five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings
Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

Stem Education Coalition

Science Node is an international weekly online publication that covers distributed computing and the research it enables.

“We report on all aspects of distributed computing technology, such as grids and clouds. We also regularly feature articles on distributed computing-enabled research in a large variety of disciplines, including physics, biology, sociology, earth sciences, archaeology, medicine, disaster management, crime, and art. (Note that we do not cover stories that are purely about commercial technology.)

In its current incarnation, Science Node is also an online destination where you can host a profile and blog, and find and disseminate announcements and information about events, deadlines, and jobs. In the near future it will also be a place where you can network with colleagues.

You can read Science Node via our homepage, RSS, or email. For the complete iSGTW experience, sign up for an account or log in with OpenID and manage your email subscription from your account preferences. If you do not wish to access the website’s features, you can just subscribe to the weekly email.”

#a-big-universe-needs-big-computing-sijacki-accessed-hpc-resources-through-xsede-in-the-us-and-prace-in-europe, #astronomy, #astrophysics, #basic-research, #cosmology, #debora-sijacki, #science-node, #she-now-uses-the-uks-national-computing-service-dirac-in-combination-with-prace, #sijacki-wants-to-understand-the-role-supermassive-black-holes-smbh-play-in-galaxy-formation, #supercomputing, #women-in-stem