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Give a Humanist a Supercomputer…

Chronicle of Higher Education (12/16/09) Howard, Jennifer

Humanities researchers involved in the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Department of Energy’s high-performance computing (HPC) competition provided updates on their “computationally intensive” humanities projects during a recent Coalition for Networked Information membership meeting in Washington, D.C. A Tufts University team is using supercomputing resources to mine classical texts in the enormous Perseus Digital Library. Meanwhile, David Koller, at the University of Virginia’s Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities, is using HPC resources to create digitized, three-dimensional models of cultural objects from museums and archaeological sites. Koller used a complex algorithmic alchemy to convert photographs of the objects into high-resolution images, which offer views from all angles and detail that extends to the level of individual chisel marks. The humanities researchers used HPC resources at the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Although HPC resources are more available at universities, Koller believes there need to be more people who know how to help computers and humanities researchers talk to each other.

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