Inventor’s Notebook of a Black African Physicist in Wyoming | Water Dams for Hydroelectric Power


TIME magazine called him
“the unsung hero behind the Internet.” CNN called him “A Father of the Internet.”
President Bill Clinton called him “one of the great minds of the Information
Age.” He has been voted history’s greatest scientist
of African descent. He is Philip Emeagwali.
He is coming to Trinidad and Tobago to launch the 2008 Kwame Ture lecture series
on Sunday June 8 at the JFK [John F. Kennedy] auditorium
UWI [The University of the West Indies] Saint Augustine 5 p.m.
The Emancipation Support Committee invites you to come and hear this inspirational
mind address the theme:
“Crossing New Frontiers to Conquer Today’s Challenges.”
This lecture is one you cannot afford to miss. Admission is free.
So be there on Sunday June 8 5 p.m.
at the JFK auditorium UWI St. Augustine. [Wild applause and cheering for 22 seconds] [Philip Emeagwali | Diary of an Engineer] Eleven out of ten people
did not understand how I invented
the precursor to the modern supercomputer. It was not I—Philip Emeagwali—
that first reported my invention
of the massively parallel processing supercomputer that computes faster than
any vector processing supercomputer. My experimental discovery
of how to parallel process an initial-boundary value problem
of calculus and physics —called extreme-scale
petroleum reservoir simulation— occurred on the Fourth of July 1989.
That experimental discovery of massively parallel processing
was first reported by The Computer Society of the IEEE.
The IEEE is the acronym for the Institute
of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. The contributions
to computational mathematics that arose from my experimental discovery
of the parallel processing supercomputer was reported in the May 1990 issue
of the SIAM News. The SIAM News
is written by research mathematicians for research mathematicians.
The SIAM News is the flagship publication of SIAM,
the acronym for the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics.
However, my new mathematical knowledge that the SIAM News described
as my mathematical contributions to computational mathematics
was how the SIAM News understood my mathematical discovery
of nine new partial differential equations of modern calculus
and understood my mathematical invention of the companion
nine new partial difference equations of extreme-scale algebra
that approximated my nine new partial differential equations.
What the SIAM News understood as my contributions
to computational mathematics was not how I understood my invention.
A discovery is like the moon that has two parts:
the visible part and the hidden part.
In 1989, the news media was reporting
the concrete and the visible part of my experimental discovery
of the massively parallel processing supercomputer
and was ignoring the abstract and the invisible part
of that discovery that occurred on the Fourth of July 1989. [Diary of a Black Cowboy Physicist] Back in 1977,
I worked in the civil engineering field of highway construction.
I did so for the State of Maryland and I helped expand portions
of the federal highway between Baltimore (Maryland)
and Washington, D.C. Nine years later, I worked
for the United States government. I worked as an engineering physicist
that was responsible for updating nine Standard Operating Procedures.
I used each Standard Operating Procedure to safely operate each dam
and I used the procedure to safely control the water level of the reservoir that is
upstream of the dam and I used the procedure to operate
the hydroelectric powerplant within the dam.
All the nine dams that I worked on were located within the state of Wyoming.
Wyoming is a state in the western region
of the United States. Wyoming
is defined by vast plains and by the Rocky Mountains.
Wyoming is best known for epic Cowboy
and western movies and for its Yellowstone National Park.
One of those nine dams that I operated
was the imposing 214-feet high Pathfinder Dam.
Pathfinder was an arch dam that was a triumph
of early 20th century design. Water cascaded from
the mid-level outlet tunnel of the Pathfinder Dam.
The Pathfinder Dam on the North Platte river of arid Wyoming
is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The North Platte is a river that rises in the snowmelt
of the Colorado Rocky Mountains. The nine reservoirs in the state of Wyoming
that I operated stored water that served
the parched farm lands of Wyoming. Glendo Dam in the state of Wyoming
is an earth fill dam that is 190 feet high.
Glendo Dam has a crest length of 2,096 feet.
As a practicing engineering physicist at the Glendo Dam,
I visualized the total amount of water that I controlled as follows:
I had 800,000 acre feet of water stored upstream of Glendo Dam.
One acre foot of water covers an acre of land
to a depth of one foot. The term “SOP”
is the United States Bureau of Reclamation’s acronym
for its Standard Operating Procedure. In my SOP for Glendo Dam,
the water storage capacity and the water redistribution
is divided as follows: 100,000 acre feet
for farmland irrigation; 115,000 acre feet
to control sediment deposition; 275,000 acre feet
for controlling floods and avoiding dam break;
and 310,000 acre feet for producing hydroelectric power.
Those engineering experiences aside, I was primarily a research engineer,
not a practicing engineer. The difference is this:
the practicing engineer likes to solve problems
that are considered solveable while the research engineer attempts to solve
the toughest problems that were considered unsolveable. [Wild applause and cheering for 17 seconds] Insightful and brilliant lecture

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