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How can Supercomputers propel India to Superpowerdom?


Working for one of the leading Supercomputing centers of the world has its own perks. It is a front row view of how the US propels itself to greatness, through its quest for understanding what they saw, what they couldn’t yet comprehend and which lay beyond the obvious – summing up to fearless search for answers.

Fundamentally, it is this fearless, unbridled quest for answers which leads societies to greatness. Many such questions lie at the forefront of science. Some of the most complex problems facing us today are such that they are mammoth in their size. From predicting weather to Genome sequencing, Looking deep into the universe to better understand it, predicting next disease outbreak, mapping water resources of the country etc. All of these problems involve thousands of parameters effecting each other, and almost always manifest on a massive scale.

ibm-blue-gene-p-supercomputer-photo2Image Source 

Such research not only enables mankind to better address the problems of tomorrow, but it also has an almost direct impact on the economic success of the nation pursuing it. Research done in any field leads to creation of intellectual property in form of research papers, patents and consequently new medicinal/technology products, improved services and many other forms of solutions which in turn make great revenue generators. In today’s world, the country with the latest and best computing technology calls the biggest shots in research.

Let me give you the example of my own project. The purpose of Dark Energy Survey is to try to answer the question ‘Is there Dark Energy in the universe‘. Without going much into details, the universe is said to be composed around 70% of Dark Energy, which is pushing the galaxies away from each other at a pace which is not accounted for by gravitational force. This Dark Energy, if/when discovered, has the potential to change our outlook towards the universe we live in.

Dark Energy Survey will install a huge telescope, which will collect data deep from the universe and send it to scientists. Scientists will then work on the data to find out the deep mysteries of what we call ‘Dark Energy’. The data sent by the telescope will contain information about galaxies, supernovae, stars and other heavenly bodies, and would run into Terabytes. This data will then be processed by data intensive processing pipelines which would run ‘science’ on it. None of this would be possible without a supercomputer, since this needs tremendous computing power.

Consider the case of water management. In India, even in the 21st century we have 60% of our agricultural land dependent on rains for irrigation. And on the other side, not only do we have floods in other parts of the country, but even the fertile Gangetic plains are said to be eroding with soil erosion through flood waters, river water. Then of course, there is the case of severe water shortage. In the U.S, supercomputers are being used to "create a national capability to better predict and manage the behavior of water—and its nutrients, contaminants, and sediments—everywhere in the US". The value provided by this project, both in economic and social terms is tremendous. If such a project could be implemented in India, it can potentially reduce the loss of revenue, soil fertility etc by a huge extent.

For any of these issues and many more, India stands to gain by having a lot more supercomputers in action. Currently, India has only 4 out of the top 500 supercomputers in the world. If India wants to actually become a great nation for its people, it must lead the quest to solve the next big problem.

Oh and as for side perks, the worlds first browser was also invented at NCSA. And since you can read this article, I am sure you agree what revolution a browser has brought to the world :)

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