Headline Dec 12, 2015/ ''' COMPUTING - INEXACT : !WOW! "'


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Dr. Palem believes his  inexact  approach is more appropriate for climate and weather modelling because the vast grids of cells-

That separately calculate local effects like cloud formation, wind, pressure and other variables can be calculated without great accuracy.

"I see it is a necessary tool we need now to move the science forward," said Tim Palmer, a University of Oxford Climate physicist.

"We can't do a lab experiment with the climate. We have to rely on these models which try to encode the complexity of the climate, and today we are constrained by the size of the computers."
Dr. Palem says the  technologies used to build current supercomputers will be too costly to create a computer capable of an exaFlop  -a billions billion calculations per second.

Rather, he argues computing the rate of global warming may be possible with a new kind of computer that would use specialised  low-power chips to solve a portion of the problem.

He describes his approach as  "inexact computing".   This is a lower-energy way to compute," he said.

The stated goal of the engineers who are trying to design an  exascale computers is to stay within a power budget of   30  megawatts. But  Andreas Bechtolshem, a  high performance computer and network designer, noted that-

Based on current technology, that would require a tenfold improvement over today's most efficient designs.

Dr. Palem has been imploring computing world to back away from its romance with precision for more than a decade.  He has recently developed allies among climatologists like Dr. Palmer-

Who in the journal Nature recently called on the climate community to form an international effort to build a machine fast enough to solve basic questions about the rate of global warming.

"High energy physicists and astronomers have long appreciated that international cooperation is crucial for realizing the infrastructure they need to do cutting-edge science," he wrote. 
"It is time to recognize that climate prediction is  'big science' of a similar league." 

Dr. Palem's effort received some help last month when he was awarded a Guggenheim fellowship to support his research on low-energy computing for weather and climate modelling.

Not everyone is convinced that his computer architecture ideas will be applicable.

"Inexact computing works well for mobile applications  where the consequence of choosing incorrectly is low," said John Shalf,  department head for computer science at the  Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

"For consequential problems, where inexact results could cause a bridge to be misdesigned  or erroneous conclusions about the mechanics of climate , the inexactness is problematic."

Dr. Palem and Dr. Palmer are attempting to overcome these objections. Earlier this year at a technical computing conference in Europe. they presented a paper that claims they can sharply reduce the power needs without compromising the accuracy of the simulation.

Dr. Palmer said that the case for required investment should be self-evident.

"It's a trivial amount of money when you think of climate impact being in the trillions of dollars ," he said. "It's actually an existential question.

If it's at one end of the spectrum, we can adjust, but if it's at the other end of the spectrum, we're not going to come out of it unless we cut emissions in the next decade."

With respectful dedication to the Students, Professors and Teachers of the World. See Ya all on !WOW!   -the World Students Society:

"' The Vision "'

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