September 2018:

DiRAC Day 2018 @ Swansea University.

We are looking forward to our 8th Annual DiRAC Science Day event, this year being held at Swansea University on the 12th of September. The day provides an opportunity to meet others from the DiRAC community and learn about the recent research achievements of our different consortia.

Swansea University are also running a stand-alone Hands-on Introduction to Data Visulation event on the 13th and 14th September which, is open to all our users.

Registration, programme and accomodation details for both these events will be available later in the year.


Feburary 2018:

New models give insight into the heart of the Rosette Nebula.

Through computer simulations run in part on DiRAC Resources, astronomers at Leeds and at Keele University have found the formation of the Nebula is likely to be in a thin sheet-like molecular cloud rather than in a spherical or thick disc-like shape, as some photographs may suggest. A thin disc-like structure of the cloud focusing the stellar winds away from the cloud’s centre would account for the comparatively small size of the central cavity.

More information can be found on the STFC press release published here and on our 2017 Science Highlights page.


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November 2017:

DiRAC @ Supercomputing 2017.

Members of the DiRAC Project Management Team travelled this year to Denver Colorado to attend the SuperComputing 2017 industry conference.  More information on what went on can be found here.


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August 2017:

The 7th Annual DiRAC Day event.

Our 2017 Dirac Day event was held at Exeter University on the 30th August.  Find out more at the dedicated web page.


April 2017:

DiRAC HPC Manager talks to Computer Scientific World

Dr Lydia Heck, Senior Computer Manager in the Department of Physics at Durham University, talks to Robert Roe of Computer Scientific World in this article looking at managing HPC performance and exploring the options available to optimise the use of resources. Discussing DiRAC’s series of COSMA machines, Lydia talks about the hurdles her team has overcome whilst implementing a new workload management system, SLURM and using a Lustre file system for the latest DiRAC iteration: COSMA 6.


March 2017:

DiRAC partners in Peta-5

Six Tier 2 High Performance Computing (HPC) centres were officially launched on Thursday 30 March at the Thinktank science museum in Birmingham. Funded by £20 million from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) the centres will give academics and industry access to powerful computers to support research in engineering and the physical sciences.

DiRAC will partner in The Petascale Intensive Computation and Analytics facility at the University of Cambridge which will provide the large-scale data simulation and high performance data analytics designed to enable advances in material science, computational chemistry, computational engineering and health informatics.


September 2016:

6th Annual DiRAC Science Day.

On September 8th, the University of Edinburgh hosted the sixth annual DiRAC Science Day. This gave our researchers in the DiRAC HPC Community the opportunity to meet each other and the technical teams from each site, learn about what is being done by all the different projects running on the DiRAC facility and discuss future plans. The Day was generously sponsored by Bull, Atos, Dell, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Intel, Cray, DDN, Lenovo, Mellanox, OCF and Seagate.

Dr. Jeremy Yates opened the meeting with an update on facility developments and then Prof. Christine Davies led a community discussion on several issues including the training needs of young researchers. The Science presentations then began with a talk on Simulating Realistic Galaxy Clusters, followed by a review of lattice QCD calculations and an exciting presentation from Prof. Mark Hannam on the recent detection of Gravitational Waves and the key role DiRAC played in converting information from the gravitational-wave signal into results for the properties of the colliding black holes.

During lunch 23 posters show-cased some of the other research done on the facility and then the day split into parallel Science and Technical Sessions. In the Science session, presentations were made on: The hadronic vacuum polarisation contribution to the Anomalous Magnetic Moment of the Muon; The Robustness of Inflation to Inhomogeneous Inflation; A Critical View of Interstellar Medium Modelling in Cosmological Simulations and finally, Magnetic Fields in Galaxies. The Technical session presented talks on: Emerging Technologies; Grid; A Next Generation Data Parallel C++ Library; An Overview of the DiRAC-3 Benchmark Suite and a lecture on SWIFT – Scaling on Next Generation Architectures.

LIGO Detections Figure 1. Dr Andrew Lytle and his poster.

During tea the poster prizes were announced and congratulations go to Dr Andrew Lytle (U. of Glasgow) for his poster on Semileptonic B_c Decays from Full Lattice QCD and to Dr Bernhard Mueller (Queens U. Belfast) for his poster on Core-Collapse Supernova Explosion Models from 3D Progenitors. They each won a £500 Amazon voucher from our kind sponsor DDN. Dr Lytle and his winning poster can be seen in the figure on the right.

Further Science session talks after tea were: Growing Black Holes at High Redshift; Planet Formation and Disc Evolution and finally, Modelling the Birth of a Star. The Technical session included a talk on the Co-design of Cray Software Components and ended with an interesting review of AAAI, Cloud and Data Management: DiRAC in the National E-Infrastructure, given by Dr. Yates. The Day concluded with a Drinks Reception outside the lecture theatres that was well attended and much enjoyed by all.


February 2016:

DiRAC simulations play a key role in gravitational-wave discovery.

LIGO Detections

Figure 1. The top plot shows the signal of gravitational waves detected by the LIGO observatory located in Hanford, USA whist the middle plot shows the waveforms predicted by general relativity. The X-axis plots time and the Y-axis plots the strain, which is the fractional amount by which distances are distorted by the passing gravitational wave. The bottom plot shows the LIGO data matches the predications very closely. (Adapted from Fig. 1 in Physics Review Letters 116, 061102 (2016))

On February 11 2016, the LIGO collaboration announced the first direct detection of gravitational waves and the first observaton of binary black holes. Accurate theoretical models of the signal were needed to find it and, more importantly, to decode the signal to work out what the source was. These models rely on large numbers of numerial solutions of Einstein’s equations for the last orbits and merger of two black holes, for a variety of binary configurations. The DiRAC Data Centric system, COSMA5, was used by researchers at Cardiff University to perform these simuations. With these results, along with international collaborators, they constructed the generic-binary model that was used to measure the masses of the two black holes that were detected, the mass of the final black hole, and to glean some basic information about how fast the black holes were spinning. Their model was crucial in measuring the properties of the gravitational-wave signal, and The DiRAC Data Centric system COSMA5 was crucial in producing that model.

More information on the detection of gravitational waves can be found at the LIGO collaboration website.

In the figure above, the top plot shows the signal of gravitational waves detected by the LIGO observatory located in Hanford, USA whist the middle plot shows the waveforms predicted by general relativity. The X-axis plots time and the Y-axis plots the strain, which is the fractional amount by which distances are distorted by the passing gravitational wave. The bottom plot shows the LIGO data matches the predications very closely. (Adapted from Fig. 1 in Physics Review Letters 116, 061102 (2016)) Read further…


November 2015:

HPCwire Readers’ Choice Award

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STFC DIRAC has been recognized in the annual HPCwire Readers’ and Editors’ Choice Awards, presented at the 2015 International Conference for High Performance Computing, Networking, Storage and Analysis (SC15), in Austin, Texas. The list of winners was revealed by HPCwire both at the event, and on the HPCwire website. STFC DiRAC was recognized with the following honor:

Readers’ Choice – Best Use of High Performance Data Analytics – Stephen Hawking Centre for Theoretical Cosmology, Cambridge University, and the STFC DiRAC HPC Facility uses the first Intel Xeon Phi-enabled SGI UV2000 with its co-designed ‘MG Blade’ Phi-housing and achieved 100X speed-up of MODAL code to probe the Cosmic Background Radiation with optimizations in porting the MODAL to the Intel Xeon Phi coprocessor.

The coveted annual HPCwire Readers and Editors’ Choice Awards are determined through a nomination and voting process with the global HPCwire community, as well as selections from the HPCwire editors. The awards are an annual feature of the publication and constitute prestigious recognition from the HPC community. These awards are revealed each year to kick off the annual supercomputing conference, which showcases high performance computing, networking, storage, and data analysis.

We are thrilled that DIRAC and the Cambridge Stephen Hawking Centre for Theoretical Cosmology and our work through the COSMOS Intel Parallel Computing Centre have received this prestigious award in high performance computing.

In particular we congratulate Paul Shellard, Juha Jaykka and James Brigg from Cambridge for their sterling efforts. It is their ingenuity, skill and innovation that has been recognised by this award.

The award is also recognition of the unique synergy that we have developed between world-leading researchers in theoretical physics from the STFC DiRAC HPC Facility and industry-leading vendors like Intel and SGI, which aims to get maximum impact from new many-core technologies in our data analytic pipelines. This involved new parallel programming paradigms, as well as architectural co-design, which yielded impressive speed-ups for our Planck satellite analysis of the cosmic microwave sky, opening new windows on our Universe.

We have built an innovative and working data analytics system based on heterogeneous CPU architectures. This has meant we had to develop and test new forms of parallel code and test the hardware and operational environment. We can now make the best use of CPUs and lower cost, more powerful, but harder to programme, many core Xeon-Phi chips. This ability to offload detailed analysis functions to faster processors as and when needed greatly decreases the time to produce results. This means we can perform more complex analysis to extract more meaning from the data and to make connections (or correlations) that would have been too time consuming before.

We now have the hardware and software blueprint to build similar systems for the detailed analysis of any kind of dataset. It is truly generic and can be applied just as well to medical imaging, social and economic database analysis as to astronomical image analysis.

For enquiries, please contact Dr Mark Wilkinson, DiRAC Project Director


March 2015:

HPQCD: Weighing up Quarks

A new publication by particle physics theorists working on DiRAC has been highlighted as the “Editor’s Suggestion” in a top particle physics journal because it is “particularly important, interesting and well written”. The calculation gives a new, more accurate determination of the masses of quarks using the most realistic simulations of the subatomic world to date. This is an important ingredient in understanding how a deeper theory than our current Standard Model could give rise to these different masses for fundamental particles.

Quark masses are difficult to determine because quarks are never seen as free particles. The strong force interactions between them to keep them bound into composite particles known as hadrons that are seen in particle detectors. This is in contrast to electrons which can be studied directly and their mass measured in experiment. Quark masses instead must be inferred by matching experimental results for the masses of hadrons to those obtained from theoretical calculations using the theory of the strong force, Quantum Chromodynamics (QCD). Progress by the HPQCD collaboration using a numerically intensive technique known as lattice QCD means that this can now be done to better than 1% precision. The publication determines the charm quark mass to high accuracy (shown in the figure) and then uses a ratio of the charm quark mass to other quark masses to determine them.

The research was done by researchers at Cambridge, Glasgow and Plymouth working with collaborators at Cornell University (USA) and Regensburg (Germany) as part of the High Precision QCD (HPQCD) Collaboration. The paper is published in the latest issue of Physics Review D and can be accessed here. The calculations were carried out on the Darwin supercomputer at the University of Cambridge, part of STFC High Performance Computing Facility known as DiRAC. The speed and flexibility of this computer was critical to completing the large set of numerical calculations that had to be done for this project.