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From the roof of the world to the summit of the Computing

It's not his nature to yell. Thomas Schulthess (55) is a rather reluctant-emerging human being. But here, in the machine hall of the Swiss National Supercomput

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From the roof of the world to the summit of the Computing

It's not his nature to yell. Thomas Schulthess (55) is a rather reluctant-emerging human being. But here, in the machine hall of the Swiss National Supercomputing Centre CSCS in Lugano, he has no other choice, to strain his vocal cords. Because of the Ventilation for cooling the Supercomputer deafening reigns of noise.

"Here you can see the Piz Daint", yells Schulthess. Thus, the currently fastest computer in Europe. He is rank five of the Top-500 list of the fastest computers in the world. Further back in the hall, the physicist and computer scientist shows a system consisting of two massive wardrobes. "This is the Piz Kesch," shouts Schulthess, head of the ETH, affiliated to CSCS as a Director. "Weather in Switzerland the weather forecasts." In addition, a new and stronger machine, the peeling of the Piz Kesch soon and even more reliable weather to allow forecasts. to be able to

in order To talk sensibly, leads Schulthess visit to the neighboring building. From his office on the third floor you can see directly to the Stadio di Cornaredo FC Lugano. As Schulthess says he recovers from a severe inflammation of the lungs. Now, however, he got from his doctor the Okay for his many travels influenced activity.


Schulthess born oscillates only between Lugano and Zürich, where he lives and where he has held at the ETH professorship for computational Physics. He is often in Brussels, to talk to politicians, he visited scientists, such as climate researchers in Hamburg or meteorologists at the European centre for medium-range weather forecasts in the UK Reading.

travel have shaped Schulthess early. In 1952, his father was commissioned by the world food organization to Nepal. There, the agronomist, the processing of excess milk to cheese, with the aim to enable the Nepalese mountain farmers income. "So it was that I was born in Kathmandu," says Schulthess. When he was one and a half years old, the family moved from Nepal to Madagascar and later to Kenya in East Africa.

Every two years, the finally, a family of five was in Switzerland, Schulthess is a "land of milk and honey". The impression changed, however, when he went to the middle school from Kenya to boarding school to Schiers. "Then I realized how many freedoms were flutes." As a teenager, he was born in Kenya, not a Scooter but a real motorcycle. So he traveled through the area, often along with the for the time typical Hippies. In Schiers, however, was the 15-Year-olds to visit a Café.

cabling to a computer in the machine hall of the CSCS. Photo: Andrea payer

After high school, he decided to study physics at ETH Zurich, where he earned a doctorate. Already there, but even more at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and then at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the USA, he worked with computer-based physics. For example, the aim was to simulate the function of the read heads of computer hard drives. As at Oak Ridge the world's most powerful super computer was installed, could Schulthess provide the appropriate physical problems. With his Team he won in 2008 and 2009, the Gordon-Bell prize, which is awarded for outstanding achievements in the field of high-performance computing.

came to Schulthess, 2008, the CSCS, had to change the data center of 30 employees and a turbulent time with a lot of Leadership behind. Until the end of 2019, more than 110 employees will be working. "We had on almost all conceivable levels of decisive innovations", says Schulthess. An example is the 2012-related building, which allows for optimum design of the Supercomputer. A further Innovation is the cooling with cold water from the lake of Lugano. The make the operation of the data center cost - and energy-efficient. And probably the biggest Innovation is the advanced computer technology at CSCS, earlier than in other major data centers.

awarded the Doron prize

Recently, Schulthess of 100'000 Swiss francs doped Doron was awarded the prize. In the grounds it means that Schulthess had created with his scientific and technical contributions are an important basis for the success of the research groups that use the infrastructure of CSCS and computer-assisted research.

the CSCS will be Used, in particular, from the departments of chemistry, physics, environmental science, and materials research. "And a very important customer, Meteo Switzerland," says Schulthess. For the ETH domain and the Swiss universities, the use of the computing power is free.

The CSCS Director, it is important to us that the Top 500 list is not overrated with the fastest computers. He referred to this list as "absurd fetish". The list shows how quickly a Supercomputer with a certain calculation algorithm. "This algorithm is very specific," says Schulthess. "He is similar to certain requirements in the material Sciences. But the Simulation of the earth's climate or a weather forecast request other qualities." Therefore, a top placement in the list is often a counter-productive incentive. Because the startle to a for many applications, an unfavourable design of the computer.

"We want to be able to storm clouds in the global simulations to resolve."Thomas Schulthess,

The same is true for the next stage: the construction of a so-called Exascale machine. Around a third of the machinery hall at the CSCS is still free. There are supposed to be built starting in 2023, the next Supercomputer that will Daint, be for certain applications is about 100 times faster than the Piz.

Why do we need it? "With regard to the weather and climate simulations, we have a clear goal," says Schulthess. "We want to be able to dissolve storm clouds in the global simulations." A spatial resolution of at least one kilometre would be needed. For the Alpine space this will be reached today, but only for a single invoice. To be able to actually chaotic weather development to better simulate, multiple runs with slightly different initial conditions is necessary. "This is only an Exascale computer. One of the largest uncertainties in weather and climate models would be eliminated."

According to the Schulthess it is the dream of meteorologists, once seasonal forecasts can be statistically reliable. "Then you could say a hot summer or a drought before." The sun still at least a decade in the future. "But with the CSCS planned Exascale computers, we want to make a big step in this direction."

(editing Tamedia)

Created: 03.05.2019, 18:15 PM

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