[Beowulf] Intro question

Lawrence Stewart larry.stewart at sicortex.com
Fri Dec 5 08:17:30 PST 2008

I've been to a couple of DE Shaw talks and I always come away puzzled.

It's tempting to conclude that they are just smarter than I am, but
maybe they are just wrong.

My understanding is they are building a special purpose molecular
dynamics machine because it will be far faster than a general purpose
machine programmed to do MD.

In principle this might work, if you get the problem statement right,
and you can design and build the machine before the general purpose
machines catch up, and you don't make any mistakes, and after it is
built you can keep designing new ones.  In practice it always seems to
take longer than you expected and cost more, and maybe that 7 bit ALU
really has to be changed to an 8 bit ALU to keep the precision up.

The most effective example I know of are the QCD machines like QCDOC
that led to BlueGene, but it was far more general purpose than Shaw's

Trying it seems harmless, and a better use of excess capital than buying
basketball teams or yachts, but it does divert smart people from other

Of course if they succeed I'll have been behind it all the way.

-Larry / Sector IX

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