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Communications of the ACM


HPC Matters, and We Have Video Evidence

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This week the 27th annual SC Conference is once again underway in New Orleans, LA (USA). During this week more than 10,000 HPC'ers from around the world will convene at the New Orleans convention center to review the latest developments in high performance computing, networking, storage, and analysis.

The theme of this year's conference is "HPC Matters," a phrase that serves as a short reminder of the impact that HPC-enabled science and engineering has on the world around us. From global issues, like climate change and energy security, to smaller things that form the texture of everyday life, HPC matters in surprising ways every day.

As part of an overall effort to get that message out to a broader community, SC14 is producing a series of videos that demonstrate why HPC matters. The videos highlight some of the application areas where HPC is making a difference in our world today, in a way that is designed to appeal to a very broad audience. 

As anyone who has tried to tell a technical story well in a short amount of time knows, a project like this is very difficult to do at all, and even more difficult to do effectively. So, why bother? I think there are two great reasons.

First, a project like this serves as an opportunity to elevate the attention of people already working in the field, reminding all of us why we chose this field to begin with — inspiration that is sometimes needed when all we can see is the next telecon and a pile of paperwork to get done. Second, if you can manage to connect on a personal level with the interests of students, especially those who have not yet chosen a career, you have the opportunity to grow participation and capture more people for the vital STEM jobs that will shape the future we all share.

So, do you know why HPC matters? Even if you think you know the answer, I recommend you watch the videos SC14 has produced as part of this series. And when you're done, share links to your favorite in your Facebook feed or on Twitter. Who knows, your link may be the one that sends the next young woman into math, or computing, or even into HPC.

  • HPC and long term climate change: Learn how supercomputers are helping scientists to understand climate change, and to develop solutions to mitigate its effects.

  • HPC, diapers, and toothpaste: From toothpaste to diapers to dish soap, companies like Procter & Gamble use high performance computing to create better, more efficient, more cost effective products and services to improve our everyday lives.
  • HPC and Big Hero 6: HPC is helping artists to develop and realize more rich life-like animation environments like those seen in Disney's Frozen, Tangled and its latest release Big Hero 6
  • HPC and the Weather: HPC is helping meteorologists to make more accurate weather predictions as well as to more rapidly warn people of dangerous and dynamic conditions including tornadoes and hurricanes.

John West is the Director of the Department of Defense High Performance Computing Modernization Program (, and a member of the executive committee for SC13.


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