NEH Resource on Humanities High-Performance Computing

NEH Resource on Humanities High-Performance Computing


What is "Humanities High-Performance Computing"?

The term "high performance computing" (HPC) is often used interchangeably with "supercomputing." It refers to very fast computers, capable of performing calculations many times faster than standard desktop machines. High Performance Computing is used mainly by scientific disciplines for processing huge amounts of data, data mining, and simulation. That is, using an enormous amount of data to simulate a physical object or series of events. For example, scientists use HPC to simulate hurricanes; the auto industry uses HPC to simulate car crashes; the military uses HPC to simulate explosions. Because of the enormous speed available with HPC, tasks can be done that normal desktop PCs could never tackle.

So what do we mean by "HHPC?" Humanities High-Performance Computing (HHPC) refers to the use of high-performance machines for humanities and social science projects. Currently, only a small number of humanities scholars are taking advantage of high-performance computing. But just as the sciences have, over time, begun to tap the enormous potential of HPC, the humanities are beginning to as well. Humanities scholars often deal with large sets of unstructured data. This might take the form of historical newspapers, books, election data, archaeological fragments, audio or video contents, or a host of others. HHPC offers the humanist opportunities to sort through, mine, and better understand and visualize this data.

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