Inside Extreme Scale Tech|Monday, December 29, 2014
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What Do Madagascar Penguins and HPC Have in Common? 

If you want to explain the many uses of high performance computing (HPC) to your less computer literate friends, you might try enlisting the help of a penguin.

Not just any penguin will do. What you need is a small band of cute but edgy penguins from DreamWorks Animation, stars of the wildly popular kid’s program, The Penguins of Madagascar, airing on Nickelodeon.

Skipper, Kowalski, Private and Rico have been enlisted by the Council on Competitiveness in a video designed to spread the word that HPC is an essential technology, impacting every aspect of our lives and economy in ways that are almost beyond imagining.

As the video’s rather earnest announcer intones early on, “From sophisticated weapons systems to homeland security, to basic research across the sciences, high performance computing takes us to the frontiers of knowledge.”

But in the next sentence, the Council’s point of view comes through loud and clear: “HPC also enables groundbreaking innovation that creates high wage jobs and keeps America competitive in the 21st Century.”

As you might expect, given DreamWorks’ involvement, the video is rich in animation — penguins dancing up and down on keyboards and giving each other high fives. But the Council has also supplied a treasure trove of images depicting simulations that range from charting the course of a hurricane and peering inside the brain of a patient afflicted with Alzheimer’s to those famous Pringles potato chips that were aerodynamically redesigned using HPC to stop flying off the manufacturing line.

Kung Fu PandaNaturally DreamWorks’ use of HPC for their animated films is well represented. The company is no stranger to HPC. Not only do they have their own high-powered rendering HPC clusters, but they have also used a grant of time on that most super of supercomputers, Jaguar at Oak Ridge National Labs, to perfect their rendering software. The results of that effort figured heavily in the production of the computer-generated film, Kung Fu Panda.

The video is short, only a little over eight minutes, and well worth looking at with its trippy animation and wealth of graphics. And given the current economy and the job situation, it’s a little bit of entertaining propaganda that you might want to share with your friends, family and local congressional representative.

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