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Home > iSGTW - 15 September 2010 > Image of the Week - Supercomputing between the lines

Image of the Week - Supercomputing between the lines

Left: This is just one of many images you’ll find inside the Supercomputing Coloring Book. Image courtesy of NCSA.
Right: According to the Supercomputing Coloring Book, researchers use supercomputers to simulate the folding and unfolding of proteins — like this tryptophan cage protein — in an effort to understand how folding errors can cause diseases. Image copyright Carlos Simmerling, 2006.

Supercomputers are far from child’s toys, but that doesn’t mean children can't appreciate them.

That's just one of many reasons why the National Center for Supercomputing Applications put together their Supercomputing Coloring Book.

“I think it does a few things well,” said Bill Bell, division director of public affairs at NCSA. “It grabs your attention. It communicates that just because the concepts are complicated doesn’t mean they have to be intimidating. And it introduces people to something they might not have considered before.”

The idea for the coloring book was originally conceived by Tricia Barker, senior media communications specialist at NCSA.

Originally, they hoped to reach two different distinct audiences: the hundreds of students who tour NCSA every year, and the people who visit NCSA’s booths at conferences, grabbing the offered swag to take home to their children. Coloring books aren’t always for kids, of course.

“Some adults certainly don’t get it,” Bell said. “But, in many cases, we get a grin and a ‘Can I take two?’”

Distributing the coloring books to kids is part of the fun. They ask “questions that really get at the nitty-gritty of things,” according to Bell. “Questions that really get at the nitty-gritty of things: Why isn't there a monitor for the supercomputer? Why can’t scientists do this with their computer at home? What happens if a black hole comes by Earth? Did you know I’m studying Taekwondo?”

Over 2000 copies of this version have been distributed, as well as several hundred downloaded; NCSA hopes to have a new version ready to distribute for the USA Science Festival in October.

You can download a PDF of the coloring book by clicking on this link.


—Miriam Boon, iSGTW


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