How Philip Emeagwali Changed the Way We Look at the Supercomputer | History of Computer Science


TIME magazine called him
“the unsung hero behind the Internet.” CNN called him “A Father of the Internet.”
President Bill Clinton called him “one of the great minds of the Information
Age.” He has been voted history’s greatest scientist
of African descent. He is Philip Emeagwali.
He is coming to Trinidad and Tobago to launch the 2008 Kwame Ture lecture series
on Sunday June 8 at the JFK [John F. Kennedy] auditorium
UWI [The University of the West Indies] Saint Augustine 5 p.m.
The Emancipation Support Committee invites you to come and hear this inspirational
mind address the theme:
“Crossing New Frontiers to Conquer Today’s Challenges.”
This lecture is one you cannot afford to miss. Admission is free.
So be there on Sunday June 8 5 p.m.
at the JFK auditorium UWI St. Augustine. [Wild applause and cheering for 22 seconds] [Changing the Way We Look at the Computer] [Practical Parallel Supercomputing] Thank you. Thank you. Thank you very much. I’m Philip Emeagwali. On the Fourth of July 1989,
in Los Alamos, New Mexico, United States, I discovered
how to solve the toughest problems arising in science and engineering.
I discovered how to solve grand challenge problems
and how to solve them by dividing them into one million smaller problems.
I discovered how to solve those problems at once,
or in parallel, and how to solve them across one million processors
that outlined and defined a new internet. That discovery,
called practical parallel supercomputing, was my physical realization
of a hypothesis that was published as science fiction
back on February 1, 1922. That science fiction was published as
64,000 humans working together as one
and doing so to solve the complex partial differential equations of calculus
that, in turn, must be solved because their solutions were the preconditions
to mathematically forecasting the weather for the whole Earth.
I was in the news headlines shortly after my discovery
that occurred on the Fourth of July 1989. I was in the news headlines
because I was the first person to figure out how to solve
that grand challenge problem of weather forecasting
and for figuring out how to solve the problem across
a new internet that is a new global network of
64 binary thousand processors that encirlced a globe
in the sixteenth dimension and encircled that globe
in the manner the Internet encircled the Earth.
Parallel processing is vital to the supercomputer
that must solve up to one million problems
at once, or in parallel. [CONTRIBUTIONS TO LARGE-SCALE ALGEBRA] It took a decade for my discovery
of parallel processing to eventually reach the ears
of the supercomputer committee that awarded me the top prize
in the field of supercomputing. Prior to winning that top prize,
I studied physics and calculus and I did so full time
for twenty years. Calculus and large-scale algebra
are at the granite core of extreme-scale computational physics
that, in turn, is the test bed for never-before-seen supercomputers.
My contributions to mathematics made the news headlines in 1989 because I
discovered how to reformulate
the tridiagonal system of equations arising in large-scale
computational physics, such as the highest,
the most fine-grained, and the most extreme-scaled
petroleum reservoir simulations of the oilfields
of the Niger Delta region of southeastern Nigeria.
I was in the news because I returned to first principles,
or the laws of physics. From the laws of physics,
I reformulated the grand challenge problem
of computational physics. I achieved that by inventing
a diagonal system of governing equations of algebra
that replaced the otherwise tridiagonal system
that must be solved sequentially, instead of solved
in parallel and across millions upon millions
of commodity-off-the-shelf processors. I set up the largest system of equations of
algebra and I did so in the context of
discovering and recovering otherwise elusive crude oil and natural gas.
I was in the news headlines because I used the oilfield as my testbed
and used it to prove for the first time ever
that the parallel supercomputer is faster than the sequential supercomputer. [My Contributions to the Supercomputer] Prior to my experimental discovery,
practical parallel supercomputing was largely the stuff of
theorical computer science. In my world
of the parallel supercomputer, July 4, 1989, was a red-letter day.
My parallel processing experiment made the news headlines because
it was a game changer for the field of supercomputing.
The first ever discovery that the parallel supercomputer
is the fastest computer in the world opened the door
to a new supercomputer and to a new computer science.
In my new way of parallel processing, the modern computer
would not be a computer per se but will be billions upon billions
of interconnected processors and email pathways
by which the processors communicate and work together
to solve grand challenge problems arising in science, engineering,
and medicine. [Wild applause and cheering for 17 seconds] Insightful and brilliant lecture

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