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Submission + - Dig, Simulations Suggest Extinction Refuge, Trigger for Modern Human Behavior

Ken Chiacchia writes: Curtis Marean of Arizona State University, leader of an international team studying early human settlements in the Cape Floral region of South Africa, is triangulating what may have been humanity's closest brush with extinction using three avenues of research. The team's archeological digs have demonstrated human habitation and life-sustaining protein and carbohydrate food sources at a point in the last glacial maximum when virtually no evidence of humans can be found elsewhere in Africa. DNA evidence points to a roughly contemporaneous genetic bottleneck in which the population crashed to 15,000 or fewer individuals. And new climate simulations of the area using Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center's Blacklight supercomputer for the first time provide enough detail to show the area was likely to be an island of moderate climate at a time when the rest of Africa was too arid to support human life. Interestingly, humans began to display modern behavior such as heat-treating stones for tools and artistic representations during this period.

Submission + - Computer Model Helps Benin Vaccinate More Kids at Lower Cost (psc.edu)

Ken Chiacchia writes: Computer modeling has helped the Republic of Benin in West Africa determine how to bring more lifesaving vaccines to its children while adding the sorely needed vaccine for rotavirus, a major killer of children in low-income nations. The Hermes Logistics Modeling Team reports its findings this month in the journal Vaccine . Results from the HERMES model, designed by researchers at Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center (PSC), the University of Pittsburgh School of Engineering and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, have helped Benin’s Ministry of Health pilot successful changes in their vaccine delivery system, says first author Shawn T. Brown of PSC. The government is now considering enacting those changes nation-wide, which could save them $500,000 through 2017 while vaccinating 99 to 100 percent of their children.

Submission + - WiiMote and BigBen via Linux, yea!

An anonymous reader writes: From a post over at endgaget.com reporting on an innovative hybrid of game technology and supercomputing found at earthtimes.org. PSC intern Jordan Soyke adapted the Wii motion-sensing controller (the WiiMote), as a controller for molecular dynamics (MD) simulations running on BigBen, PSC's 4,000 processor, 21-teraflop Cray XT3 supercomputing system. The WiiMote interacts directly with MD simulation via a Linux computer altered to accept commands from the WiiMote". The "glue" for the WiiMD capability, which linked the interactive visualization in real-time on the Reno show floor with simulations on BigBen, is PDIO (Portals Direct I/O), software developed by PSC scientist Nathan Stone that routes simulation data from the XT3 in real time to remote users. The resulting technology, called WiiMD, merges the WiiMote with MD, a powerful computational method to track forces among atoms in molecules as they move. The PSC team demonstrated this new technology with entertaining and insightful simulations. One demonstration involved using the WiiMote to unfold a small protein and to move a small sugar molecule through a protein channel. "The ability to interact directly with these simulations, allows scientists and students to easily explore and get a feel for the system they are studying, making it possible to quickly uncover avenues of inquiry that they might not otherwise consider. WiiMD takes this mode of discovery off of the desktop and opens it up to classroom and group settings."

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