|Computer artists transform equations into dramatic simulations at the Ilinois Supercomputer Center.|
On a hot day in Illinois, a storm is brewing. Above cornfields and a dusty road, a cloud dramatically billows and grows. To the experienced eye of veteran meteorologist Robert Wilhelmson, the gathering tempest looks like a potential tornado.
But don't run for the storm cellar. The cloud is only 12 inches high and the sky is just the deep blue background of a computer screen. The whole scene exists only as an elaborate series of equations and numbers that Wilhelmson has fed into a Cray supercomputer at the University of Illinois' National Center for Supercomputer Applications.
Once there was a starlet startup called Digital Productions. Formed in Hollywood in the wake of an early 1980s entertainment industry love affair with supercomputer graphics, Digital was one of half a dozen companies that flourished, then failed, as movie-makers belatedly...