Next week David H. Bailey of LBNL is giving the keynote speech at the “SHARCNet Research Day,” a meeting of researchers affiliated with Canada’s leading high-performance computing network. This will be held 6 May 2010 at York University in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The talk is entitled “Computing as the Third Mode of Scientific and Mathematical Discovery”. It gives an overview of the many components of modern high-performance computing (hardware, software, algorithms, numerical techniques, parallelization techniques, etc), which the speaker likens to a “Symphony.” Here is the announcement:

SHARCNet meeting

Abstract:

The latest state-of-the-art scientific computer systems have achieved over 1 “Pflop/s” (one million billion floating-point arithmetic operations per second). Scientists have capitalized on this computational power by developing a wide range of sophisticated programs that are becoming so effective that scientific computing is now widely regarded as the third mode of scientific discovery, after theory and experiment.

In other words, the computer has become a virtual laboratory, wherein “experiments” can be performed to explore phenomena that are too complicated, expensive or dangerous to explore by ordinary empirical experiment. Many examples of this methodology will be described, including studies in climate and environmental science, astrophysics, biology, engineering, and mathematics.

Among the examples of such computations, the author will describe some recent research wherein new formulas of mathematics have been discovered, using high-precision numerical computations on state-of-the-art computers. Perhaps the best-known such discovery is a new formula for the mathematical constant pi, which has the curious property that it permits one to calculate digits of pi beginning at an arbitrary starting position in the binary expansion.