Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Hector the Hero

For those who think there are too many variables to devise an accurate divorce financial settlement calculator we now have Hector (High-End Computing Terascale Resource) which was officially launched yesterday at Edinburgh University by Alistair Darling. One of the top 20 most powerful computers in the world, and the first and largest of its type (a Cray XT4) in Europe Hector computes at a rate of over 50 teraflops (50 million million calculations per second).

Supercomputing allows the creation of sophisticated models and simulations through which hypotheses can really be put to the test and because Hector is so powerful, the results they get from their simulation should be very precise. Scientists from Southampton University, for example, have been using Hector to model the behaviour of fluid flows, which could be useful in understanding air flow over aircraft wings. Turbulence is particularly difficult to simulate because it involves eddies with a wide range of length and time scales. Using Hector, the team have constructed the largest fluid simulation ever carried out in the UK.

Supercomputers use a lot of energy and get very hot - which is why Scotland is a prime location for them. According to the Scotsman Hector will be obsolete in 6 years, having run up a bill of £113 million. So if Hector could be accessed for computing divorce financial settlements, by my calculation it would cost £35 per minute.


Anonymous,  15 January, 2008 14:20  

Very funny. James Scott Skinner will be chuckling in his grave.


Fiona 15 January, 2008 16:23  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Fiona 15 January, 2008 18:16  

Thanks, Jim.

Just to clarify for those who don't know,"Hector the Hero" is a Scot's fiddle tune composed in 1903 by Skinner as a tribute to a distinguished Scottish general.

John Bolch 17 January, 2008 13:39  

£35 per minute? Clearly, I'm not charging enough...

Fiona 17 January, 2008 20:24  

And I hope you won't be obsolete by 2011, John.

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