CHINA'S LATEST SUPERCOMPUTER VICTORY

China's Milky Way 2 supercomputer was recently declared the fastest supercomputer in the world by industry scorekeeper Top500, the latest move in the increasingly international race for high performance computing supremacy. Late last month, CI Senior Fellow Rick Stevens appeared on Science Friday, alongside Top 500 editor Horst Simon, to talk about why that competition matters, and what the global push for faster computation will do for medicine, engineering and other sciences.

"These top supercomputers are like time machines," Stevens said. "They give us access to a capability that won't be broadly available for five to ten years. So whoever has the time machine is able to do experiments, able to see into the future deeper and more clearly than those that don't have such machines."

FROM CITY HALL TO HYDE PARK

In its early days, the Urban Center for Computation and Data formed a valuable partnership with the data team installed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel within Chicago's city government. Leading the city's efforts to free up data internally and externally was Chief Data and Information Officer Brett Goldstein, an alumnus of the UChicago computer science program and the restaurant reservation startup company OpenTable. Goldstein's team and UrbanCCD worked together on the SmartData platform proposal that was chosen for a $1 million grant in the Bloomberg Mayors Challenge earlier this year, and Goldstein was the keynote speaker at the first workshop of the Urban Sciences Research Coordination Workshop in February.

So we are very excited about the news that Goldstein will soon be joining the University of Chicago as the inaugural Fellow in Urban Science at the Harris School of Public Policy. Goldstein will continue to work with UrbanCCD researchers on the SmartData platform and other projects, while also helping with the launch of a masters degree in computation and public policy and the Urban Technology Innovators' Conference, a new initiative organized by Chicago Harris and the City of Chicago that seeks to create a peer-learning network for municipal technology innovators.

WE CAME, WE SAW, WE CERNED

We were thrilled to spend Friday morning with the folks at TEDxCERN via webcast, enjoying fascinating talks by CI director Ian Foster and several other amazing scientists and educators. Foster's talk focused on "The Discovery Cloud," the idea that many complex and time-consuming research tasks can be moved to cloud-based tools, freeing up scientists to accelerate the pace of discovery. We'll post the video when it's up, but for now, enjoy this great animation produced for the conference by TED-Ed explaining grid computing, cloud computing and big data.

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WHEN TED MEETS CERN

We're happy to announce that Computation Institute director Ian Foster will be speaking at the first-ever TEDxCERN conference, to be held May 3rd at the particle physics laboratory in Geneva, Switzerland. The theme of the conference is "Multiplying Dimensions," and Foster will speak in the second session on the topic of "Big Process for Big Data." Other speakers include geneticist George Church, chemist Lee Cronin and philosopher John Searle. A webcast of the conference (hosted by Nobel Laureate George Smoot) will run on the TEDxCERN website, but the CI will also host a viewing party at the University of Chicago. Stay tuned for details, and enjoy the TEDxCERN animation on the origin of the universe -- one of five animations (including one on big data) that will premiere at the event.

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A few weeks ago, we urged readers to vote in the Bloomberg Mayors Challenge for the City of Chicago's entry, a collaboration with the Urban Center for Computation and Data called the SmartData Platform. This week, the project received good news as it was chosen for a $1 million grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies to launch the project, one of five proposals to receive funding from the original pool of 305 applications. The SmartData platform will put city datasets -- like those that can found on the city's data portal -- to work in making the city run more effectively and efficiently, and the UrbanCCD will help provide the computational expertise and tools to extract the maximum potential from the data. The new open-source platform is considered the next iteration of the WindyGrid system currently used internally by the city, which was discussed by Chicago's Chief Data Officer Brett Goldstein at the recent Urban Sciences Research Coordination Network workshop.

Chicago and the other Bloomberg winners were covered by the New York Times, the Chicago Sun-Times, Crain's Chicago Business, NBC Chicago, ABC Chicago, The Atlantic Cities.

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A CITY PROJECT BATTLE ROYALE

As the keynote speaker at the Urban Sciences Research Coordination Network kickoff last Friday, the City of Chicago's Brett Goldstein presented a blizzard of exciting city projects at various states of development. One slightly-under-wraps project Goldstein touched upon was the SmartData platform, an ambitious plan to craft a new tool for decision-making and city services out of the abundant raw material of city data. In collaboration with the Computation Institute and the Urban Center for Computation and Data, the city's Innovation and Technology team hopes to create a tool that will analyze the city's many large datasets in real time to help the city respond to challenges more quickly and efficiently, while providing frequently updated, useful information to its citizens.

Wednesday, that exciting new effort was announced as a finalist in the Bloomberg Philanthropies Mayors Challenge, a competition among ideas proposed by cities across the United States. As part of the judging, the public is invited to vote for their favorite project among the 20 finalists at the Huffington Post. We're biased of course, but to help make the case for Chicago's project, you can read more about the SmartData platform here, or watch a video about the concept featuring Mayor Rahm Emanuel below.

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THE CI'S MOST FAMOUS CAR WASH OWNER

A recurring theme of Breaking Bad is getting out of difficult situations with science. Yet, you still probably wouldn't expect to run into a character from the hit TV show on the campus of Argonne National Laboratory or University of Chicago. But if you happen to spot a man who looks just like protagonist Walter White's former boss at his car wash job, no need for a double take -- you're not losing your mind. Marius Stan, a Computation Institute Senior Fellow and Argonne scientist studying computational chemistry and physics, provides the memorable eyebrows and Romanian curses for the role of Bogdan, a character who has appeared in a handful of episodes of the AMC drug-trade drama.

This week in the Chicago Tribune, reporter Ted Gregory profiled Stan and told the story of how he got involved with the show when he lived in Albuquerque, before moving to Chicago. Stan might humbly list "Breaking Bad, Bogdan" below a computational microscope and a book about modeling and simulation in materials science on his CI web page. But his colleague, CI fellow Andrew Siegel, said most people at Argonne find his moonlighting career "extremely cool."

"Everybody finds it hilarious and great. In science, you're so uncool, at least in this country, and the world of acting is so opposite of that. It's a funny convergence of things."

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Last week, we announced the newest CI research center, the Urban Center for Computation and Data (UrbanCCD). Led by CI senior fellow Charlie Catlett, the center will bring the latest computational methods to bear on the question of how to intelligently design and manage large and rapidly growing cities around the world. With more cities, including our home of Chicago, releasing open datasets, the UrbanCCD hopes to bring advanced analytics to these new data sources and use them to construct complex models that can simulate the effects of new policies and interventions upon a city's residents, services and environment.

Since the announcement, news outlets including Crain's Chicago Business, RedEye and Patch have written articles about UrbanCCD and its mission. The center was also highlighted by UrbanCCD collaborators at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory, and endorsed by US Rep. Daniel Lipinski.