Supercomputers Are the New Microscope

Ye olde scientific method isn't going anywhere, but the tools that advance our understanding of the crazily complicated around (and inside) us have rapidly changed. The NYT takes a look at the easier, better, faster, stronger scientific community.

A prime example of the new frontier is what's been dubbed the "Macroscope" at the Morrison Planetarium inside the California Academy of Sciences. Rather than just projecting the same old star map we saw when we were kids, this amped-up planetarium uses three linked computer supercomputers to store, process, and visualize data on the scale of both the entire galaxy and an individual cell. The macroscope can move "from subatomic to the large-scale structure of the universe," explains Ryan Wyatt, the planetarium's director.

Also revolutionizing research is the ability to easily swap massive amounts of data across the world, as is the case with the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology's (Calit2) collaboration with Saudi university researchers, beaming hi-res imagery and dense data around the globe. Not only is it powerful to swap science from the comfort of your homeland, it's plain efficient: "You can save so much energy by not flying to London that it will run a rack of computers for a year," says Tom DeFanti of Calit2.

I want a macroscope. [NYT]