October 31, 2011

China's Newest Supercomputer Uses Homegrown Chips

China's Newest Supercomputer Uses Homegrown Chips

China has built its first supercomputer based entirely on homegrown microprocessors, a major step in breaking the country's reliance on Western technology for high-performance computing .

China's National Supercomputer Center in Jinan unveiled the computer last Thursday, according to a report from the country's state-run press. The supercomputer uses 8,704 "Shenwei 1600" microprocessors, which were developed by a design center in Shanghai, called the National High Performance Integrated Circuit Design Center.

Details of the microprocessors and the design center were not immediately available.

The supercomputer has a theoretical peak speed of 1.07 petaflops (quadrillion floating-point calculations per second), and a sustained performance of 0.79 petaflops when measured with the Linpack benchmark. This could place it at number 13 in the world's top 500 supercomputing.

China's Shandong Academy of Sciences built the computer. Officials of the academy could not be immediately reached for comment on Monday. 

A report from The New York Times said the supercomputer's name in English was the Sunway BlueLight MPP.

China is increasingly investing in supercomputing technology. Last November, its Tianhe-1A supercomputer briefly grabbed the spot as the world's most powerful, but the computer used chips from Intel and Nvidia. The Tianhe-1A has a theoretical peak speed of 4.7 petaflops and a sustained performance of 2.5 petaflops.

China currently has 61 supercomputers on the top 500 list. In comparison, the U.S. has 255 on the list. Japan's "K Computer" is currently ranked first in the top 500 list, after bumping Tianhe-1A to the second place. 

Experts have been anticipating that China would build its own supercomputer, using domestically developed chips. Chinese state-run press hailed the new supercomputer as a symbol of China's strength. 

Courtesy PCWORLD

October 28, 2011

World Heaviest Gold Coin 1,012kg

World Heaviest Gold Coin 1,012kg

PERTH(BullionStreet) : Australia's Perth Mint unveiled world's largest , heaviest and inherently most valuable gold coin with acurrent value of nearly $55 million.
The coin weighing 1012 kilograms and is more than a tonne of 99.99 per cent pure gold . The giant coin is 80 centimetres wide, 12 centimetres deep, took 18 months to create
The obverse of the coin features Ian Rank Broadley portrait of Queen Elizabeth II and carries the face value of AU$1,000,000. The reverse design features the classic kangaroo design by Dr. Stuart Devlin AO CMG, goldsmith and jeweller to Queen Elizabeth II. The inscriptions include the "2012″ date and "1 Tonne 9999 Gold".
Perth Mint said the coin was a showpiece of the Australian kangaroo gold bullion coin program, and would coincide with the release of several smaller gold coins this week.
The weight and purity of each issue is guaranteed by the West Australian government.
Previous holders of the title of world's largest gold coin include a 31 kilogram Gold Philharmonic coin struck by the Austrian Mint in 2004, which carried a €100,000 denomination. This was followed by a 100 kilogram Gold Maple coin struck by the Royal Canadian Mint in 2007, which carried a face value of CA$1,000,000.

Courtesy- Billion street

NASA Launches Multi-Talented Earth-Observing Satellite

NASA Launches Multi-Talented Earth-Observing Satellite

WASHINGTON -- NASA's newest Earth-observing satellite soared into space early today aboard a Delta II rocket after liftoff at 5:48 a.m. EDT from Space Launch Complex 2 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. 

NASA's National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System Preparatory Project, or NPP, successfully separated from the Delta II 58 minutes after launch, and the first signal was acquired by the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System. NPP's solar array deployed 67 minutes after launch to provide the satellite with electrical power. NPP is on course to reach its sun-synchronous polar orbit 512 miles (824 km) above Earth.

"NPP is critical to our understanding of Earth's processes and changes," said NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver. "Its impact will be global and builds on 40 years of work to understand our complex planet from space. NPP is part of an extremely strong slate of current and future innovative NASA science missions that will help us win the future as we make new discoveries."

NPP carries five science instruments, including four new state-of-the-art sensors, which will provide critical data to help scientists understand the dynamics of long-term climate patterns and help meteorologists improve short-term weather forecasts. The mission will extend more than 30 key long-term datasets NASA has been tracking, including measurements of the ozone layer, land cover, and ice cover. 

NPP serves as a bridge mission between NASA's Earth Observing System (EOS) of satellites and the next-generation Joint Polar Satellite System, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) program that will also collect weather and climate data. 

Scientists will use NPP data to extend and improve upon EOS data records. These satellites have provided critical insights into the dynamics of the entire Earth system, including clouds, oceans, vegetation, ice, solid Earth and atmosphere. NPP will allow scientists to extend the continuous satellite record needed to detect and quantify global environmental changes.

"The measurements from NPP will benefit science and society for many years to come," said Michael Freilich, director of NASA's Earth Science Division. "NPP will help improve weather forecasts, enable unique scientific insights, and allow more accurate global environmental predictions. I'm confident that the strong partnerships forged in the NPP program between NASA and NOAA, industry, and the research and applications communities will ensure the success of the mission."

The satellite will be operated from the NOAA Satellite Operations Facility in Suitland, Md. NASA will operate NPP for the first three months after launch while the satellite and instrument are checked out. NPP operations will then be turned over to NOAA and the JPSS program for the remainder of the mission.

NPP data will be transmitted once every orbit to a ground station in Svalbard, Norway, and to direct broadcast receivers around the world. The data will be sent back to the United States via fiber optic cable to the NOAA Suitland facility. NPP data is then processed into data records that NASA and NOAA will make available through various data archives.

The Delta II launch vehicle that delivered NPP into orbit also deployed auxiliary payloads within 98 minutes after launch. The five small "CubeSat" research payloads are the third in a series of NASA Educational Launch of Nanosatellite missions, known as ELaNa missions.

The NPP mission is managed by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., for the Earth Science Division of the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. The Joint Polar Satellite System program provides the NPP ground  system. NOAA will provide operational support for the mission. Launch management is the responsibility of the NASA Launch Services Program at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Courtesy NASA

October 24, 2011

Steve Jobs was world's worst manager: Biographer

Steve Jobs was world's worst manager: Biographer

NEW YORK: Apple Inc co-founder Steve Jobs revolutionized multiple industries with his cutting-edge products, but he was not the world's best manager, biographer Walter Isaacson said.

Jobs changed the course of personal computing during two stints at Apple and then brought about a revolution to the mobile market, but the inspiring genius is known for his hard edges that have often times alienated colleagues and early investors with his my-way-or-the-highway dictums.

"He's not warm and fuzzy," Isaacson said in an interview with " 60 Minutes" on CBS. "He was not the world's greatest manager. In fact, he could have been one of the world's worst managers."

"He could be very, very mean to people at times," he added.

Jobs loved to argue, but not everyone around him shared that passion, which drove some of his top people away. While his style had yielded breakthrough products, it didn't make for "great management style," Isaacson said.

In one of more than 40 interviews that Jobs gave the biographer, the technology icon said he felt totally comfortable being brutally honest.

"That's the ante for being in the room. So, we're brutally honest with each other and all of them can tell me they think I'm full of s**t, and I can tell anyone I think they're full of s**t," Jobs said.

"And we've had some rip-roaring arguments where we're yelling at each other." Isaacson's biography "Steve Jobs," which hits bookstores on Monday, reveals that Jobs refused potentially life-saving cancer surgery for nine months, was bullied in school, tried various quirky diets as a teenager, and exhibited early strange behaviour, such as staring at others without blinking.

The book is expected to paint an unprecedented, no-holds-barred portrait of a man, who famously guarded his privacy fiercely, but whose death ignited a global outpouring of grief and tribute.

Isaacson said in the interview that the reality distortion theory that had always been associated with Jobs stemmed from the Apple co-founder's belief that he was special and that the rules didn't apply to him.

'Magical thinking' "He could drive himself by magical thinking," Isaacson said. "By believing something that the rest of us couldn't possibly believe, and sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't."

Jobs, who has revolutionized the world of personal computers, animated movies, music, phones, tablet, digital publishing and retail stores, would have liked to conquer television as well, Isaacson said.

"He had a few other visions. He would love to make an easy-to-use television set," said.
Isaacson, speaking of Job's last two-and-a-half years of life.

"But he started focusing on his family again as well. And it was a painful brutal struggle. And he would talk, often to me about the pain."

Jobs, in his final meeting with Isaacson in mid-August, still held out hope that there might be one new drug that could save him. He also wanted to believe in God and an afterlife.

"Ever since I've had cancer, I've been thinking about (God) more. And I find myself believing a bit more. Maybe it's because I want to believe in an afterlife. That when you die, it doesn't just all disappear," Isaacson quoted Jobs as saying.

"Then he paused for a second and he said 'yeah, but sometimes I think it's just like an on-off switch. Click and you're gone," Isaacson said of Jobs.

"He paused again, and he said: And that's why I don't like putting on-off switches on Apple devices."

Courtesy Times of india

October 23, 2011

History of Music players

It Begins With the Invention of the Phonograph: August 1878
When Thomas Edison was only 31 years old, Popular Science profiled him, getting a look inside his shop and talking to him about the best writers of the age. The article cites the carbon telephone and the phonograph as the best of his many inventions, not knowing, of course, that records would one day become ubiquitous before being replaced by CDs, then MP3 players, only to make a comeback among audiophiles.
The phonograph was invented largely by accident, as so many good things are. Edison was tinkering with an automatic transmitter for Morse Code when he realized that the vibration from spoken word could make a needle make an indentation on paper, and an even better one on tinfoil. Then, when the grooves were run under the needle again, his words were spoken back to him and the recording was born.
Fun & Info @ Keralites.net

Talking Cellulose Thread: December 1922
We can hardly imagine being excited to receive a ball of string in the mail (except, perhaps, for the cats among us), but there was a time when we thought that was the future of correspondence. A device created by a Swiss inventor could record sound patterns on a cellulose thread using a sapphire stylus that could then be listened to using a reproduction machine. When recorded, the thread was small enough to coil up and mail in a standard envelope.
The article says that the machines were implemented in a few business offices, where we imagine the secretaries got rather tangled up.
Fun & Info @ Keralites.net

Home Recording of Radio Programs: February 1931
The dawn of the ability to record The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes to listen to over and over again must have been a boon to techies and Arthur Conan Doyle fans alike. In the early 1930s, pre-grooved records eliminated the need for the complicated machine used to guide the needle in recording studios and made it possible to record radio programs, such as Sherlock, and personal messages with the purchase of a recording needle and a microphone.
Fun & Info @ Keralites.net

The Camera of Sound: January 1946
During World War II, magnetic wire recorders were used to transmit and store vital information. But once the troops came home, the tool found itself a place among civilians as a way to record family memories, monologues or music off the radio. The recorder is filled with nearly two miles of re-recordable fine steel wire and a magnet. PopSci reminds users to rewind before playing back the recording, or else it plays backwards and "sounds like Donald Duck."
Fun & Info @ Keralites.net

Wireless Record Players: March 1946
For those audiophiles whose crystal clear radios had spoiled them for the "tinny sound" of their old phonographs, PopSci offered a solution. By installing a one-tube oscillator in the record player, it became a miniature broadcasting station that could beam music to radios around the house, as long as they were tuned properly. The article goes on to explain how to walk that fine line between making the broadcast strong enough to be picked up by radios, while not being so strong as to get you in trouble with the FCC.
Fun & Info @ Keralites.net

The Two Types of Continuous Strip Recorders: April 1947
The ability to record and play back sound was a boon not just to America in wartime but to parents who wanted to record the cute things their children said, and slow note-taking journalists everywhere. By 1947, you had two options: the recorder that made magnetic impressions on wire or metal-coated paper, or the kind that embossed marks onto film. Putting magnetic material on film made for cheaper recordings, but the film was far less durable than metal wire and harder to edit. PopSci looks at the history of the magnetic recorder, weighs the pros and cons of the different types, and imagines a future where such machines are portable.
Fun & Info @ Keralites.net

Hi-Fi, Explained: March 1957
In the early 1950s, being an audiophile made you eccentric, not a hipster. But then high fidelity equipment blew up and became popular for its ability to make the listener feel like they were hearing the music live. While the typical hi-fi set up only truly required a record player, loudspeaker, tuner and amplifier, the obsession with perfecting the sound quality led one man to tweak his system to the tune of 22 additional speakers, after which he still wasn't quite satisfied. The way to tell if the system is perfect? If it can play an ungrooved, unrecorded disk in complete silence without producing any buzzing or humming.
Fun & Info @ Keralites.net

The First In-Car Disc Player: October 1963
The luxury of bringing our music with us wherever we go is something we take for granted these days, often forgetting even the hardships of portable CD players that we wrestled with just over a decade ago. In 1963, PopSci showed readers how to install an in-car record changer that could play up to 14 standard-size, 45 RPM records. Bringing delicate records on car trips along pothole-ridden roads sounds like a recipe for disaster, but according to the article, the device plays without skipping on "moderately bumpy roads" as well as when the car rounds a corner or comes to a stop.
Fun & Info @ Keralites.net
Tests Your Home Record Player: February 1968
Even the most finicky of ears can have trouble adjusting a hi-fi system to perfection. That's where we stepped in, with our test record full of laboratory-recorded test tones designed to pick up on any flaws in channel balance and sample music pieces that try the limits of a system. And after tweaking their system until it was flawless, lovably pretentious music nerds could use the test record to demonstrate just how awesome their setup was to all their party guests.
Fun & Info @ Keralites.net
Demystifying Tape Systems: Februrary 1969
We got the scoop straight from major tape companies on the pros and cons of five different tape systems: reel-to-reel, cassette, eight-track, four-track and playtape. In 1969, the four-track was already on its way out, with half the playing time and far fewer features than the eight-track. Reel-to-reel systems were also slipping, thanks to the greater convenience of cassette and cartridge systems, and we dismissed playtapes as being for teenagers or children's recordings. That left eight-tracks and cassettes, each with advantages and disadvantages, as top dogs.

Fun & Info @ Keralites.net
The Dawn of the Compact Disc: November 1983
CD players deliver hi-fi without needing the calibrating help of a PopSci test record, completely free of pops or hisses. And the laser beam ensures that the discs never wear out, the way LPs do. We proclaimed the development of CDs to be "the most radical change in record technology since Thomas Edison demonstrated his tinfoil cylinder recordings." At the time of publication, CD players were still too pricey for the average Joe, but costs were already starting to drop (you could get one for less than $600 at Sears).

Fun & Info @ Keralites.net
Sony Mini Disc: August 1991
With records, cassette tapes and CDs all incompatible, Sony decided that what the people needed most was another form of recorded music. With portability in mind, they set about designing the Mini Disc system, which was supposed to have more compressed audio (pros: smaller discs, cons: lower quality), as well as the ability to be jostled without skipping - you could take it on a jog, perhaps. The advantage of choosing to compress the songs rather than develop a new recording technology was that companies would be able to use the same recording equipment they already had to produce the Mini Discs. The discs would also be erasable and re-recordable.
Fun & Info @ Keralites.net

The Gamechanger: January 2002
The first iPod of Apple's dynasty could hold up to 1,000 songs (about 80 CDs worth of music) in its 5 GB of storage. We're used to our teensy iPods now, but the venerable grandpappy wasn't exactly pocket-sized, unless you were wearing cargo pants. It was about 2.5 by 4 inches, weighed 6.5 ounces and had a battery life of around 10 hours
Fun & Info @ Keralites.net

Full Circle - Ripping Records to an iPod: November 2005
Everything old always becomes new again, and recorded music is no exception. When CDs were invented, we praised the superiority of their sound quality to records. But as things became more digitized, vinyl became romanticized, and the natural solution was to rip tracks from records and put them on an iPod. And who better to do the job than a hacker? A DIY-er known only as Mister Jalopy showed PopSci the device he built that automatically transfers songs from a played record to his iPod Mini.
Fun & Info @ Keralites.net

October 22, 2011

Celebrate an Environmentally Safe Diwali

Celebrate an Environmentally Safe Diwali

Did you know that diyas lit on the moonless Diwali night signifies the end of darkness of ignorance and the beginning of light that enlightens all? Well, this Diwali enlighten yourself towards the hazards that boisterous celebrations of Diwali poses to our environment. 

This articles endeavours to sensitise the readers towards celebrating an environmentally safe Diwali by pointing out the major impacts that Diwali has on our environment. It is hoped that this articles will encourage you to celebrate a green Diwali, where there will be an explosion of joy without crackers! 

How to celebrate an Eco Sensitive Diwali?
Now, that you are interested in celebrating an Eco - Sensitive Diwali, the first thing that you need to do is to make yourself aware about the effects the traditional Diwali celebrations has on the Mother Nature. Given below are three major environmental impacts that Diwali Festival have on our environment.

  1. Air Pollution through Firecrackers
  2. Excessive Consumerism
  3. High Energy Consumption
1. Air Pollution through Firecrackers - "Say 'No' to Fire crackers and 'Yes' to life!" 
For most people lighting of firecrackers is the highlight of Diwali. Brighter the sparkles, louder the noise the greater the thrill!! In fact to many of us, these aesthetic forms of light seem so appropriate and most essential when celebrating the 'Festival of Lights'. 

But little do people realize that in our increasingly populated and polluted cities, the temporary joy of watching the firecrackers is soon replaced by the intense air pollution caused by these. The toxic substances used in the firecrackers release toxic gases that are harmful to the health of all living beings. The high level of noise generated by the crackers cause immense suffering to birds and animals. Besides, Diwali crackers are dreaded by the sick and the ailing. 

Sadly, few of us realise that the firecrackers used on Diwali are mostly made by very young children. Since the substances being handled are extremely toxic many of these child labourers get sick and die in their early teenage years. 

Harmful effects of Chemicals used in crackers
Let's do a little analysis of crackers and list out in actual terms the harmful effects posed by each of its chemicals. 
Irritation of respiratory tract
Anemia and damage to kidney
Affects the nervous system
Its dust and fumes cause metal fume fever
Reacts violently with moisture and can attack the skin.
Leads to vomiting
Could lead to mental impairment
Could lead to coma

Noise Pollution caused by Fire Crackers
Crackers that make a noise of more than 125 decibels at four metres distance from the point of bursting are banned by the law. Given here are the hazards posed by excessive noise pollution caused by crackers: 
  1. Hearing loss, high blood pressure, heart attack and sleeping disturbances.
  2. Sudden exposure to loud noise could cause temporary deafness or permanent relative deafness.
2. Excessive Consumerism 
An indirect but equally significant impact of Diwali on nature is due to the increased consumption. Since Diwali is also a celebration of abundance and wealth - many people believe that it is a good time to buy. Often, people go out and buy new items even when they don't need them. Advertisements and hoardings scream out to people offerings sales extravaganzas, bargains, discounts encouraging us to buy more and more! 

How does this increased consumption affect Nature? 
A point to realize is that all man made items are made out of materials that come from Nature. Be it plastic, metal, paper or cloth - all of these raw materials come directly from nature. Those sources that are non renewable (cannot be grown back) such as fossil fuels and metal ores get depleted and will one day run out. Depletion of non renewable natural resources is one of the most significant impact of consumerism. 

For instance, the gold earrings that you will buy on Diwali is coming from a gold mine that is not only depleting the gold resources of the earth, but in the process of mining is probably ruining several ecosystems. 

A question to ponder at this stage is, where do all the things we throw away go finally? Solid waste created by human beings which is non biodegradable (does not easily decompose) has to be filled into holes dug up in the ground. These 'landfills' as they are called may exist for centuries without completely getting integrated into the soil. The plastic toys that you are throwing away today, may exist in a landfill several generations after yours! 

Five Principles of Nature conservation
To be able to conserve our natural environment it is important to keep in the following principles -

  1. Reduce : the amount of things we use
  2. Reuse : the things we have in different forms until we have absolutely no use for them
  3. Recycle : items that are no longer functional.
  4. Rethink: the choices we make when deciding to buy something and
  5. Refuse : things that we do not need at all.
So this Diwali, before you buy something new apply the above five principles and only then pay at the counter! 

3. High Energy Consumption
The festival of lights puts a considerably heavy load on electrical energy sources that are already overloaded. The use of electric lights to adorn homes, business establishments, monuments and roads requires a huge amount of electricity. The older tradition of burning oil lamps is a possible alternative to electric lights - even though it does use oil, the duration of the lamps is shorter. 

Eco sensitive Initiatives around Diwali
With the growing recognition of the impacts of Diwali on the environment, several groups have started to reinterpret the rituals and traditions to become more sensitive to nature. For instance, the children of NCL school, Pune celebrate a different Diwali by sharing clothes with the lesser privileged. 

Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) Telescope

 Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) Telescope

An international partnership of Europe, NorthAmerica and East Asia in cooperation with the republic of Chile, is the largest astronomical project in existence. ALMA will be a single telescope of revolutionary design, composed initially of 66 high precision antennas located on the chajnantor plateau, 5000 meters altitude in northern CHILE


Youngest Planet Picture: Gas Giant Seen in Throes of Creation

Youngest Planet Picture: Gas Giant Seen in Throes of Creation

Baby world likely "deep red" to human eyes due to heat of formation.

A new picture of a Jupiter-like world swaddled in gas and dust is a direct image of what may be the youngest planet yet seen, astronomers report.
The newborn gas giant, dubbed LkCa 15b, orbits a sunlike star 450 light-years away in the northern constellation 
The planet orbits inside a disk of material around the star that's no more than two million years old. By contrast, astronomers estimate our solar system is 4.6 billion years old.
The big baby planet may be up to six times the mass of Jupiter, according to theory-based calculations, and it appears to orbit 11 times farther from its parent star than Earth does from our sun.
The new picture was made in near-infrared light, but "the planet would probably appear a deep red to our eye, since it's still glowing from the heat of being formed," said Adam Kraus, lead study author and an astronomer at the University of Hawaii.
Separating Light From Light
Kraus and colleagues zeroed in on the young star based on previous observations that showed a conspicuous gap in the star's surrounding debris disk.
Such gaps are thought to be telltale signs that massive, newly formed planets are circling inside the disks—a protoplanet's gravity would clear away a wide swath of gas and dust as it accumulates matter.
"This [gap] is a huge benefit for astronomers who want to find planets—we know a planet is probably there, and we even know approximately where to look," Kraus said.
"We just needed to find a way to distinguish the very faint planet from its very bright parent star."
For this, the team turned to the Keck II 10-meter telescope on the summit of Hawaii's Mauna Kea.
First off, the telescope's deformable mirror was able to correct for distortions in the collected starlight caused by Earth's atmosphere.
The team then used a small mask with several holes placed over the light-collecting mirrors, a method called aperture mask interferometry. This technique allowed the team to block out the light from the host star while capturing the fainter glow of the disk and its embedded planet.
Observing Planet Birth in Action
Kraus and his team plan to continue observing LkCa 15b so they can pin down its temperature and orbital characteristics, such as the shape and orientation of its path around the star.
The team also hopes to expand the search to other stars that have surrounding disks with gaps—and perhaps begin to answer some basic questions about early planet formation.
"We'd been looking for this kind of planet for several years, specifically because we know that observing planet formation in action would tell us a lot about how it actually works," Kraus said.
"My first reaction was that this is finally going to tell us how planets really form!"

Courtesy National Geography