In natural history museums, dinosaurs are usually displayed as skeletons, not as code scrolling down computer screens. Yet, this is just how a dozen students from various schools saw them after they created a ‘supercomputer’ as part of the American Museum of Natural History’s first conference examining the growing prominence of ‘parallel or cluster’ supercomputers.
The students, participating in the Museum’s Pre-College Science Collaborative, assembled 16 hard-drives into an eight-unit supercomputer to run a program called POI that would compute the relationship between dinosaurs and modern birds.
It’s amazing how fast they can go, said Jacqueline Kahan, a seventh-grader at the Beacon School referring to the supercomputer. While a home computer can compute 256 million calculations per second, a cluster computer can compute 80 billion. That’s a pretty amazing amount of math, said Jeff Oishi, the show presenter for the planetarium, who was working with the students.