Mapping the Future

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Data: the results (values) obtained in a scientific experiment, or investigation. Note that "data" is the plural form of the word "datum." Example - the data are shown in this graph... more

Environment: the area (environment) where living things or groups of living things normally live. Also called the natural environment... more

Prediction: a best guess, an educated guess, about what might happen in the future.

Super Smart

It seems like math homework can take forever. However, homework takes a much shorter time when you have a group of friends that can help you when you’re stuck. By helping each other, you can do the work faster. The same is true for computers. What one computer can do in days, 100 computers can do in just a few hours when they work together. When many computers are connected together as a network  so they can share information, they become a supercomputer. Scientists are using supercomputers to predict how the changing climate will affect a species’ range.

Computer cluster

Technicians look over a cluster of networked computers. Somewhat like having many people working on the same problem, connecting many computers together speeds up the time it takes to get an answer. Image by MEGWARE Computer GmbH.

These supercomputers can create detailed maps of the future ranges of animals based on conditions such as temperature and rainfall. Scientists can use computers to build many possible maps by asking different questions.

  • What if the environment heats up?
  • What if it cools down?
  • What if it stops raining?
  • What if the animals need trees? 

It would take one scientist years to answer just these few simple questions. Instead, the supercomputers take the information entered by many scientists, and use their combined “brain” power to produce an answer in hours. Making predictions for each species requires different data, but the computers will be able to create maps for any species for which scientists have enough information. The maps will help scientists to protect the areas that the animals will need to survive.

Beowulf Computer Cluster Layout

There are many types of computer clusters that are called super computers. This is the layout of a Linux cluster called a Beowulf cluster.

Illustration by Charles Kazilek. Additional images from Wikimedia. Iamus Computer by Quipa.

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Bibliographic details:

  • Article: Super Smart
  • Author(s): Adriana Manrique
  • Publisher: Arizona State University School of Life Sciences Ask A Biologist
  • Site name: ASU - Ask A Biologist
  • Date published: June 9, 2012
  • Date accessed: June 27, 2022
  • Link:

APA Style

Adriana Manrique. (2012, June 09). Super Smart. ASU - Ask A Biologist. Retrieved June 27, 2022 from

American Psychological Association. For more info, see

Chicago Manual of Style

Adriana Manrique. "Super Smart". ASU - Ask A Biologist. 09 June, 2012.

MLA 2017 Style

Adriana Manrique. "Super Smart". ASU - Ask A Biologist. 09 Jun 2012. ASU - Ask A Biologist, Web. 27 Jun 2022.

Modern Language Association, 7th Ed. For more info, see
Iamus computer

Looking a lot like a giant brain, the lamus computer cluster is the first computer to learn human musical language. It has 1,620 processors and 885 TB of storage. It's first full composition, Hello World!, was released on October 15, 2011.

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