In the early hours of Saturday May 6, at the Monza motor racing circuit in Italy, Eliud Kipchoge ran 26.2 miles in 2 hours and 25 seconds, beating the existing marathon world record by 2 minutes and 32 seconds. The run was the culmination of Nike’s “Breaking 2” project, a two year program aimed at demonstrating that it is physically possible for a human to run a marathon in less than two hours.

Before the run, much of the publicity had focused on Nike’s spring loaded Vaporfly Elite running shoe, which they had claimed improves running efficiency by as much as 4%. However in the days afterwards much of the conversation turned to aerodynamics, and the influence of the unfeasibly large timing board that was mounted on top of the pace car that drove in front of Kipchoge, and the “delta formation” adopted by his team of “relaying” pacers. By some calculations drafting was responsible for about 1:30 of the 2:32 that Kipchoge knocked off Kimetto’s world record.

In order to determine just how much influence "aerodynamic trickery" had in getting Kipchoge within 26 seconds of the mythical 2 hour barrier, we decided to run a series of computational fluid dynamics simulations using STAR-CCM+,

Don’t worry, this blog has nothing to do with politics. Instead I wanted to spend some time trying to understand the lessons that we as engineers can learn from the failure of the prediction community to successfully forecast the outcome of the 2016 Presidential Election. For me this was an important backstory to the 2016 campaign: the pre-election poll predictions were wrong by a significant enough margin that they completely failed to forecast the outcome of the election.

“What does this have do with engineering simulation?” I hear you ask. The answer, I think, is “a great deal.” CFD engineers, like psephologists*, are also interested in making predictions about the future. Whereas Silver and his peers use statistical inference (from opinion polls and other data sources) to try and predict how people will vote in an election, we use numerical models of physics to predict the future performance of a proposed product or design.

We are proud to announce the new "Ectoplasmic Flow Model" in the latest release of STAR-CCM+. The model can be used to accurately predict the entrainment of negative spiritual energy in the wake of a moving monster.

Adding to the already extensive multiphase capabilities, the model also correctly accounts for the phase transition into ectoplasmic slime. 

Originally conceived as pure test of athletic ability, the motto of the Olympic games is “Citius, Altius, Fortius”, which is Latin for "Faster, Higher, Stronger". However, Olympic competitors are increasingly supplementing hard work and training with engineering simulation in their quest for Olympic glory. As the the sun sets over Rio and the Games of the XXXI Olympiad I decided to investigate some of the ways engineering simulation is influencing the outcome of Olympic sporting events.

Our annual STAR Global Conference is a great way of or observing the state of the simulation market, and the extent to which the things that we were talking about as “bleeding edge” at the previous conferences are not only finding leverage, but often becoming “the norm” in industrial usage.

I spent nearly the whole SGC locked up in a dark room interviewing our customers for video testimonials. It was an incredibly motivating and inspiring, and frankly exhausting experience. The twenty or so customers that I interviewed confronted me with so much passion about their simulation processes that at times it felt like being at a religious “revival” meeting than an engineering simulation conference.

Here is what I learned from SGC16.

Just weeks after announcing that we had broken a “world record” by scaling STAR-CCM+ across 55,000 cores on the 1.045 PetaFLOP Hermit cluster, we are pleased to announce that we’ve smashed it already, by scaling up to 102,000 cores on NCSA’s Blue Waters supercomputer, which included running a 1 billion cell aerodynamics simulation. Blue Waters is one of the most powerful supercomputers in the world*, and is the fastest supercomputer on a university campus.

Of course, lots of CFD vendors have claimed a “world record” from time to time. And I’m sure someone will break it again soon. But what does any of this mean in the real world? How does it help you as an engineer?
STAR-CCM+ Power Licensing

You might have noticed our recent announcement that STAR-CCM+® has “maintained perfect scalability” across 55,000 cores on the 1.045 PetaFLOPS Hermit cluster, at the High Performance Computing Cluster Stuttgart (HLRS). This announcement made me smile for two reasons. The first was that one of our competitors has recently been bragging about running a simulation on 10,000 cores. Well done for that! But, more importantly, because I’ve spent a lot of time recently interviewing the founders of our company for an article that I’ve written about our 35th Anniversary. One of the recurring themes in those interviews was that of computing that they had access to in the early days of the company. adapco’s first computer was a VAX 11/750, described by Steve MacDonald as being “about the size of a washing machine.” This computer, which cost a cool $200k (adjusted for inflation), was capable of performing a massive 120,000 floating point operations per second.
VAX 11/750

VAX 11/750: 1980 supercomputer disguised as a washing machine

How does that compare to modern computers? Or even the phone in your pocket?

It's become a bit of a cliche to say that our latest Conference is the "most successful ever", as these things tend to grow organically from year-to-year. However, having attended over 20 STAR Conferences (as both as customer and employee of CD-adapco), I can honestly say that SGC14 was different. Not only was it our biggest ever conference (with well over 500 participants from every corner of the globe), it also featured the most diverse collection of simulation success stories we've ever heard.

Speaking to the STAR Global Conference 2014, in Vienna, President Steve MacDonald reveals that CD-adapco is working to add a Finite Element solver to STAR-CCM+.

It occurred to me just the other day, that I've now been a simulation engineer for over 20 years (despite my youthful good looks, I really am that old). Back in the early 90s, when I fired up pro-STAR up for the first time, there were no 40 year old simulation engineers (or at least none that had survived to tell the tale).

Slide Rule

To celebrate 20 years in the game, I thought that I'd write my top seven tips for a long (if not successful) career in engineering simulation.


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Matthew Godo
STAR-CCM+ Product Manager
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Marketing Director
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Lead Product Manager, STAR-CCM+
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