Heinz Billing Prize 1998 for “Cactus”

December 08, 1998

On the occasion of the 15th data processing user meeting of the Max Planck Institutes at the Gesellschaft für Wissenschaftliche Datenverarbeitung mbH in Göttingen, the Heinz Billing Prize for outstanding work in the area of “scientific computing” was awarded for the sixth time. The prize is named after one of the pioneers of data processing and is sponsored by the computer industry. Of the nine entries that ranged from new tools for the support of basic research to direct applications of novel scientific algorithms, the entry "Cactus, a new type of computer code for cooperative simulation," by Dr. Ed Seidel from the Albert Einstein Institute, was designated as the winner of this year’s Heinz Billing Prize.

"Cactus" is a new type of computer code that allows for the cooperative solution of equation systems that are numerically extremely complex through the use of supercomputers. One example of this is the numerical integration of Einstein’s equations of general relativity. Although the work at the Albert Einstein Institute in Potsdam, together with its international partners, exclusively focuses on the solution of Einstein’s equations, the Cactus Computational Toolkit can also be used to solve other complex scientific issues, in which the numerical simulation of processes depends on combining the performance of globally distributed supercomputers. In this manner it first became possible to numerically trace the collision of neutron stars and to calculate boson stars. Several Cray T3E computers that were installed in Germany and the USA worked on the same problem, connected by a high-performance network.

Through the granting of the award, Dr. Ed Seidel was recognized as the initiator and animating force behind this project, which was aimed at international cooperation and a pooling of existing resources. It serves as an example that will most certainly motivate other research groups to also think internationally in this regard.

The other papers submitted were also regarded as outstanding examples of innovative and scientific software by the jury and were recommended for publication in the "Research and Scientific Computing" book series. This year's award will especially help to motivate young people who are active in basic research to develop internationally competitive software.

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