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iSGTW Feature - Food for thought at EUAsia Grid

Opinion - Food for thought at EUAsia Grid

Image courtesy Raffy Saldana. Image on previous page courtesy Steve Wood, sxc.hu

“Ni chi le ma” is a common greeting amongst Chinese. It means “how are you?” but translates literally as “have you eaten?”

The central role of mealtime in Chinese culture was made abundantly clear to a group of participants in the EUAsiaGrid project last week at Academia Sinica in Taipei, as they sat around a table laden with Taiwanese specialties. The food helped stimulate several good ideas for future grid applications that could help to build new scientific collaborations in Asia.

Participating in the dinner were a Malaysian, an Indonesian, a Czech, an Italian, an Australian, two Filipinos and half a dozen Taiwanese. While enjoying steamed ginger fish, tea-flavored dumplings and other exotic dishes, the researchers bounced ideas back and forth for ways to promote joint efforts in earthquake and tsunami research in the region, using grid technology.

Much of Southeast Asia lies on major tectonic fault lines: Indonesia has the largest number (131) of active volcanoes on the planet. Taiwan has one of the highest densities of seismometers on Earth, partly due to the tremendous damage done by the so-called “921 Earthquake” of 1999 (named after the date it hit, September 21st). And memories are still fresh of the disaster visited on many countries in the region by the Asian tsunami of 2004.

Simon Lin, project director of Academia SInica Grid Computing and host of last week's International Symposium on Grid Computing (ISGC), led the discussion. ISGC has been bringing Asian researchers together for seven years, to encourage regional grid development as well as collaboration with international experts. Meanwhile, the EUAsiaGrid project, launched as a support action in April 2008, is enabling Asian scientists to form novel scientific partnerships.

UNOSAT image of effects of 2005 tsunami in Southeast Asia. (Affected areas in red.) Image courtesy UNOSAT

Shaking things up

Much of the discussion focused on earthquake and tsunami modeling, as these simulations require large amounts of processing power, detailed geological models for input — which put demands on data transfer and storage, which grid technology can help with.

As the meal progressed, it became clear that if geological models of countries like the Philippines could be made available to research groups in Taiwan with powerful simulation programs, all sides could benefit.

By meal's end, Lin summarized an action plan to ensure that everyone went back to their respective laboratories with a clear idea of what to do next. The plan included using Australia as a hub for future frequent video conferences between the partners — recognition that communication across large physical and cultural distances requires sustained effort.

Marco Paganoni of INFN, and head of the EUAsiaGrid project, summed up the dinner meeting with an old Italian idiom “L'appetito viene mangiando,” or “ The more you eat, the hungrier you get.” It is used to express the way that a person who starts out hesitantly with a new task gradually gains confidence and becomes enthusiastic. In that sense, the Asian collaborators around the table had eaten well.

Francois Grey, reporting from Taiwan for iSGTW

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