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Thanks to the advancement of computing hardware, researchers in all fields are able to generate huge datasets. Data processing, including analysis and visualization, has to tackle the problem of large-data throughput. Both the software and hardware architectures of current computational science have to evolve quickly to meet the volumes of data generated by current petascale computing. Additionally, recent years have seen an upsurge in the number of collaborative computing tools that are empowered and facilitated by the internet. Applications in the so-called “cloud” allow collaborators in distant locations to efficiently share information and work together to solve problems. While researchers routinely use visualization techniques on massive datasets and have begun web-based collaboration using software in the cloud, a need still exists for combining these two applications into a collaborative visualization system that can handle terabytes, or more, of data.
The research group of Professor David Yuen (Earth Sciences; MSI Fellow) is working on a client-server based approach to visualization. Group members who have worked on this project, known as WebViz, include Yichen Zhou, Cory Ruegg, Robin M. Weiss, Erik O.D. Sevre, Wei Jin, and Michael R. Knox. WebViz is a collaborative visualization system that allows users in different locations with different hardware platforms to share and interact with the same real-time visualization session. The image above shows how WebViz can be used on a variety of hardware platforms, including a Powerwall (left panel, 15 megapixel resolution) connected to a Linux server and an iPad 2 (right panel) that uses iOS (formerly iPhone OS, an operating system developed by Apple for hand-held devices). The visualization shows the Tohoku-oki tsunami waves. The Yuen group has tested WebViz at several locations around the globe that are located far from the WebViz servers at the University of Minnesota. These locations include locations in China such as Harbin (9,300 km from Minnesota), Beijing (10,200 km), Shanghai (10,900 km), and Lanzhou (10,800 km), plus Kiev, Ukraine (8,100 km) and Perth, Australia (17,100 km). All rendering processes were done within a couple of minutes.
This research has been supported by the CMG and OCI programs of the National Science Foundation. A longer article about WebViz and its capabilities can be found in the Spring 2012 Research Bulletin.
Gas flow over an object when there are few molecules in a given volume must be studied with different equations than with “thicker” gases. Aerospace engineers must take this into account when they are designing spacecraft that will enter a planet’s upper atmosphere at hypersonic speeds. Assistant Professor Thomas Schwartzentruber (Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics) and his research group have developed a new molecular-simulation tool that allows modeling under these conditions. The image on the left, above, shows a sample of this molecular simulation result for hypersonic flow over a satellite geometry resembling the MIR space station. The image to the right shows a simulation of hypersonic flow over a reentry capsule, with the contours showing the temperature increase through the shock wave ahead of the vehicle. It also shows the degree of surface heating, a maximum near the capsule shoulder. An article about this research appears in the Spring 2012 Research Bulletin.
MSI researchers presented posters of their work at the 2012 MSI Research Exhibition on Friday, April 13, 1-3:30 p.m., on the fourth floor of Walter Library. The posters were judged by a panel of MSI Principal Investigators and prizes were awarded. Light refreshments were served. We are very grateful to our sponsors, Dell and HP, for their support of this event. More information, including pictures of the competition winners, can be found on the 2012 Research Exhibition webpage. The images here were taken at the 2011 Research Exhibition.
MSI researchers are studying food crops in order to develop strains that are hardier, more disease-resistant, and have better yields. Associate Professor Nathan M. Springer (Plant Biology; MSI Associate Fellow) studies variations among different lines of maize (corn). His group has profiled structural variation in the genome of different maize lines and expression differences among genotypes. They are now profiling the distribution of epigenetic marks (chemical additions to the genetic sequence) throughout the genomes of different individuals. A long-term goal of this research is to understand the contributions of epigenetic changes and structural changes to variations in characteristics within a species.
The production and use of biofuels or fossil fuels release differing amounts of air pollutants in different geographic locations at different times with associated ecological and human health effects that impose costs on society. Professor Julian D. Marshall (Civil Engineering, Institute on the Environment) and his group are using MSI to study the emissions tradeoffs between using biofuels and fossil fuels. His group uses the supercomputers to run state-of-the-science meteorological, emissions, and air-quality models. This research appears in the 2011 Annual Research Highlights. This image shows a map of annual average gridded emissions of oxides of nitrogen for the production and use of ethanol from a mix of corn and corn stover; temporal profiles are included to show variation by month of year, day of week, and hour of day.