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[Axiom-developer] Science calls Sage a "supercomputer"

From: Bill Page
Subject: [Axiom-developer] Science calls Sage a "supercomputer"
Date: Fri, 23 Mar 2007 12:01:21 -0400

In a recent widely distributed online edition of Science
Magazine, SCIENCE News This Week March 23 2007, 315 (5819)
Dana Mackenzie writes:

Mapping the 248-Fold Way
Dana Mackenzie
This week, an international team of 18 mathematicians and
computer scientists called the Atlas Project announced that
a supercomputer called Sage has successfully "mapped" a vast,
248-dimensional entity known as E8. (Read more.)

"On 8 January, Sage, a supercomputer at the University of
Washington, computed the last entry in the table for E8."

As much as I value getting some long needed press for things
related to computer algebra, I am particularly disturbed that a
high profile publication like Science Magazine from the American
Association for the Advancement of Science should so badly
misrepresent the nature of a computer algebra system! :-( Oh
please, won't somebody please to Science Magazine the difference
between a supercomputer and a computer program? Ok, it is true
that the server that Sage runs on at the math department at
University of Washington is a nice and fast 16-processor linux
system, but the last time I looked that didn't qualify it as
a supercomputer...

Even here at

we can read:

"News flash:
Congressman Jerry McNerney will deliver a commendation of the
Atlas team to Congress on Tuesday, March 27. Watch it on TV!"


"In the end the calculation took about 77 hours on the
supercomputer Sage."

Would it be *that* embarrassing to admit that almost anyone
with a high end "gaming" desktop computer could do this same
calculation in about the same amount of time? Perhaps yes,
given how much NSF money has gone into supporting super
computer projects...


For some reason this type of journalism and "science by press
release" disturbs me. Am I alone in this reaction? Do we have
to promote our work this way?

BTW, congratulations to the mathematicians of the Atlas project.
In spite of the hype, this is of course a momentus result!

Bill Page.

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