Supercomputing and the Transformation of Science

Supercomputing and the Transformation of Science
by William J. Kaufmann III, and Larry L. Smarr

Scientific American Library (dist. by W.H. Freeman and Co.)
YA-T, GA **


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Supercomputing and the Transformation of Science is an extraordinary survey of supercomputing applications. Upon opening it, you will immediately find some of the most eye-catching color illustrations ever to be seen in any book. Kaufmann and Smarr carry on the tradition of those like Lewis Thomas, Phillip Morrison, and James Burke, all historians of science, who took potentially boring subjects, developed one's curiosity by limiting the text to summary concepts, and included many pictures. The major question answered by the book is: How were supercomputers developed, and what science problems can they be used to solve? The authors' contents reveal their approach to answering this question: "The Emergence of a Digital Science," "The Evolution of Supercomputers," "The Methods of Supercomputing," "The Quantum World," "Inside Living Creatures," "Engineering Design and Analysis," "The Dynamic Planet," and "Discovering the Universe." The difficulty in assessing this delightful book is determining the most appropriate audience. The pictures alone would interest primary school children in science, but the cost is high, and some of the technical language would likely elude them. Similarly, while secondary students might be inspired by reading it, the book is not a secondary school core course textbook. And it would be too general for a college-level course in science or computers, although the pictures could be used to add spice to a lesson on either. I recommend Supercomputing and the Transformation of Science highly as a useful, up-to-date reference book and for inspiration in learning more about the field.

--Reviewed by Mark L. Schlam in Science Books and Films, 29/4 (May 1993), pp. 107-8.