Computers: Pictures Worth A Million Bytes

Computer-generated images are now vital laboratory tools

Among the flashy hardware and software on display at last week's First World Supercomputer Exhibition in Santa Clara, Calif., the small Cornell National Supercomputer Facility booth attracted attention out of proportion to its size. There, on a large video screen, more than a thousand stars wheeled around a newly formed black hole, an incredibly dense, bizarre entity with gravity so strong that not even light can escape from it. As nearby stars were sucked in by its gravity, the hole grew. By the time the system stabilized, nearly half its stars were gone. Conventioneers were fascinated.

But not as much as...

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