Alan Chalker

Stan Jastrzebski / WBAA News

As soon as the door of the freight elevator in Purdue’s math building opens, those exiting are assaulted by a blast of cold air and a pervasive hum.

It’s the sound of hundreds of cooling fans attached to bank upon bank of computers, all of which are churning away solving problems for the academics who buy space on the machines. Even in an era defined by miniaturization, these supercomputers are room-sized – the latter-day relatives of the first computers, like ENIAC.