U.S. Army using supercomputer to study terror

The U.S. Army has begun simulating airplane suicide attacks, bomb explosions and the subsequent blast waves of such events using a 512-processor SGI supercomputer, SGI officials announced this week.

The studies are an effort to better understand the ramifications of such impacts on building structures, according to SGI.

The 512-processor SGI Origin 3800 supercomputer is stationed at the U.S Army Engineering Research and Development Center Major Shared Resource Center (ERDC MSRC) in Vicksburg, Miss.

With it, the ERDC MSRC can program in the architectural specifications of any building, simulate a blast wave striking it, and track the physical destruction of the building’s components all the way down to every shard of glass from a breaking window, SGI officials said.

The ERDC MSRC is studying the Sept. 11 attack on the Pentagon and other past acts of terror, including the Marines barracks bombing in Lebanon, the Oklahoma City bombing, the attack on the Khobar Towers barracks in Saudi Arabia, and the U.S. embassies in east Africa.

“Flying debris such as glass shrapnel is often the cause of casualties in these kinds of attacks,” and the studies being done by the ERDC MSRC will help designers create better windows, as well as improved wall and frame architectures, SGI officials said in a statement.

The ERDC MSRC’s SGI Origin 3800 is configured with 512 MIPS R12000 400MHz processors, 410 Gflops of computational capacity, 512 GB of aggregate memory, 4 TB of hardware disk storage, and runs SGI’s IRIX operating system, according to SGI.

The SGI Origin 3800 can be expanded to a 1,024-processor shared memory system for even greater computing power, according to SGI, based in Mountain View, Calif.

In the most recent Top 500 list of the world’s most powerful supercomputers compiled by the University of Mannheim, Germany, and the University of Tennessee, SGI took the number eight spot on the list with a 6,144-processor supercomputer located at the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Canada is home to the 124th largest supercomputer in the world, a 32-processor, 256 Gflops-capable unit stationed at the Meteorological Service of Canada (MSC), part of Environment Canada.