Essentially, we take a real-world problem from biology, physics, geology, medicine, engineering, or any other scientific field, and model it with one or more mathematical equations.
A “virtual simulation” of the problem we are studying may then be carried out by “solving” the equation(s) with a computational tool:
We then observe, identify, and describe the behavior of our simulation – i.e. we conduct scientific research using a virtual model instead of a real-world (physical) model.
Clearly, computational Science is a multidisciplinary activity. It brings together people from a variety of fields. TEAMWORK IS NECESSARY FOR SUCCESS!!
Questions you might discuss with the students – pushing ‘teamwork’ aspect:
· What is the ‘area of science’ for your project?
· Of the three areas shown above, who is an expert in “Computers”, “Science”, and/or “Mathematics”
· Which area do you think is the easiest/hardest?
· Where will you go for help?
· What other skills do you think will be necessary? (e.g. writing, research)
Inform students that some projects will not necessarily fit into this mold! Supercomputing Challenge staff assisting with the ‘Abstract Review’ class will determine whether or not their project is acceptable.
Point out to students that Computational Science complements, but does not replace, theory and experimentation in scientific research!
e.g. theoretical ideas and previous experimentation may lead to mathematical equations which allow you to create a new “virtual airplane”. However, you would still build and test a physical prototype before going into full-scale production to verify that it really works!
With Computational Science we are often able to make an educated guess as to what may happen in the future!
More Examples: earthquake prediction, forest fire behavior, population modeling (e.g. bark beetles vs. trees), weather forecasting, asteroid impact on Earth, traffic flow
Questions you might discuss with the students:
· Why are some of these examples best studied in a “virtual” world?
· Are some examples impossible to study in the real world?
· How would you verify the results of these examples? i.e. how would you determine whether or not your virtual simulation really represents what would happen in the real world?
Science, we are also easily able to perform “what if” experiments! e.g. what if we use titanium instead of aluminum for the
frame of our airplane? What if the asteroid impacts
Bark Beetle (BB)! Question the students and see how they think the Bark Beetle problem can be investigated using each of these steps. They will actually do this in a later class.
· If results do not “agree” with physical reality or experimental data, reexamine the Working Model and repeat modeling steps.
· Often, the modeling process proceeds through several iterations until model is “acceptable”.
Students may edit, compile, and execute computer programs written in Fortran, C, C++, Java, and other languages on Mode.
Software applications, as well as some programming languages, are best used on their own PCs. e.g. Java (if using graphical components), Excel, StarLogo
Ask the students what “supercomputing” is. Then, point out the following:
Accounts on a “real” supercomputer may be granted to those teams who demonstrate the need for substantial amounts of computing power.