Scientists Ask Congress To Fund $50 Billion Science Thing

September 28, 2007


The highlight of the scientists’ testimony was a series of several colorful diagrams of how the big machine would work. One consisted of colored dots resembling Skittles banging into one another. Noting the motion lines behind the circle-ball things, committee members surmised that they were slamming together in a “fast, forceful manner.” Yet some expressed doubts as to whether they justified the $50 billion price tag. “These scientists could trim $10 million if they would just cut out some of the purple and blue spheres,” said Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD), explaining that he understood the need for an abundance of reds and greens. “With all of those molecules and atoms going in every direction, the whole thing looks a bit unorganized, especially for science.”

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September 27, 2007


Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, in collaboration with scientists at NASA’s Ames Research Center, have built a low-cost robotic device that enables any digital camera to produce breathtaking gigapixel (billions of pixels) panoramas, called GigaPans. These huge image files can then be explored by zooming in on features of interest in a manner similar to Google Earth. “We have taken imagery and made it a new tool for exploration and for enhancing global understanding,” said Illah Nourbakhsh, associate professor in the School of Computer Science’s Robotics Institute. The GigaPan camera system is part of a larger effort known as the Global Connection Project, led by Nourbakhsh. Its purpose is to make people all over the world more aware of their neighbors. Global Connection’s earlier accomplishments include the publication of the National Geographic magazine photography and story layer in Google Earth.

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An Oracle for Our Time, Part Man, Part Machine

September 25, 2007

It was the Internet that stripped the world of its innocence. Algorithms, as closely guarded as state secrets, buy and sell stocks and mortgage-backed securities, sometimes with a dispassionate zeal that crashes markets. Algorithms promise to find the news that fits you, and even your perfect mate. You can’t visit without being confronted with a list of books and other products that the Great Algoritmi recommends. Its intuitions, of course, are just calculations — given enough time they could be carried out with stones. But when so much data is processed so rapidly, the effect is oracular and almost opaque. Even with a peek at the cybernetic trade secrets, you probably couldn’t unwind the computations. As you sit with your eHarmony spouse watching the movies Netflix prescribes, you might as well be an avatar in Second Life. You have been absorbed into the operating system.

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Did You Know?

September 20, 2007

The world is changing in an exponential rate. The world 20 years ago was vastly different from today. In 1987 could anyone have predicted the communication structures that we now take for granted? What will the world be like in 20 more years? It will be even more different than the last 20.

Geostationary Banana Over Texas

September 12, 2007

banana in space

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s a giant banana that a Canadian artist’s building to blast into space. Cesar Saez is planning to launch the 300m-long inflatable banana into orbit from Mexico next summer to see how people react to his crazy flying fruit. The finished banana will certainly be hard to miss – it’s going to be longer than three football pitches and as high as a 20-storey building in the middle. That means it will be between 15-20% of the size of the full moon!

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AMD Releases Quad-Core Chip

September 10, 2007

amd barcelona

Advanced Micro Devices Inc. launched its highly publicized new server chip Monday, delivering the biggest jolt to its product lineup in four years. The company’s redesigned Opteron processor is the first from AMD to feature four computing engines on a single chip instead of just one or two. How does Barcelona stack up to a pair of dual-core Opterons? In other words, how much faster can we expect Phenom to be vs. the Athlon 64 X2? To put it succinctly, it looks like around 15% clock for clock. Clock for clock that’s nothing short of a huge increase in performance over the K8 based Opterons. We saw how competitive AMD became after the first round of price cuts this year, but after the second set Intel went back to dominating. The trouble for AMD this time around is that Phenom is a much larger chip than the outgoing Athlon 64 X2, whereas Intel’s Penryn family will actually be smaller than Conroe. AMD is already losing a considerable amount of money each quarter, so fabbing a larger chip at the same price as current CPUs will only make the situation worse. However, Intel can afford to continue to keep its processors as aggressively priced, especially moving to 45nm. To put it plainly: Phenom/Barcelona makes this price war more difficult on AMD, while Penryn makes it easier on Intel. What’s the end game? Is there a solution? The concern is that a non-competive AMD will bring about a more complacent Intel, which we do not want. We want the hungry Intel that we’ve enjoyed for the past year, we want ridiculous performance and aggressive pricing, and we won’t get that without an AMD that can fight.

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Untangling the web: Japan experts publish map of the net

September 7, 2007

Mapping the great network that is the internet was never going to be an easy task. There would have to be as many connections as there are in the human brain. But for a group of web architects based in Japan, it is worth a go. Modelled on the fiendishly complex Tokyo Metro map, the latest Web Trend Map (the 2007/V2 version) organises some of cyberspace’s movers and shakers into an easy-to-read chart. Plotted by the Japanese firm Information Architects (IA), each line on the map represents a theme, be it news (green), tools (pink) or the brown Chinese line, which IA calls the “second internet”, after the country’s efforts to censor much of the content freely available in the West.

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