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The art of math

At the National Petascale Computing Facility, visitors can see amazing high-tech hardware capable of performing quadrillions of mathematical operations every second and of managing quadrillions of bytes of data. But the science and engineering work that the Blue Waters supercomputer, the iForge cluster, and NCSA’s high-performance networking and data systems make possible is invisible to the naked eye.

To help people envision the range of science being performed, and the complex mathematics behind it, NCSA installed a mural featuring scientific visualizations and equations used by some of our research partners. The included equations are:

1 F=ma

A classic from high-school physics: Force equals mass times acceleration. Used in molecular dynamics, which simulates complex biological systems and processes.

2 Vorticity equation

Describes the spinning of a particle of fluid as the fluid itself moves. Can be used to determine how particles of air rotate, which helps atmospheric scientists model the formation of a tornado.

3 Navier-Stokes equations

Especially helpful in modeling weather, ocean currents, blood flow, and aerodynamics of aircraft and automobiles.

4 Poisson’s equation

Often used in electrostatics, or the study of non-moving electric charges or fields. For example, the electrostatics of biomolecules like a protein or nucleic acid determine how they interact.

5 Lattice QCD

Allow scientists to understand the results of experiments in particle and nuclear physics in terms of quantum chromodynamics, the theory of the interactions between sub-atomic particles called quarks and gluons.

6 Mass-energy equivalence

This famous equation expresses the concept that the mass of an object is a measure of its energy content. It’s included here for its recognizability—everyone knows it!

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