Summit the Supercomputer

It’s shiny, fast ultrapowerful, and likely to be named the world’s speediest and smartest supercomputer. It fills a server room the size of two tennis courts and can spit out answers to 200 quadrillion (or 200 with 15 zeros) calculations per second, or 200 petaflops, according to Oak Ridge National Laboratory, where the supercomputer resides. “If every person on Earth completed one calculation per second, it would take the world population 305 days to do what Summit can do in 1 second,” according to an ORNL statement.


Credit: ORNL

The supercomputer is an IBM AC922 system that’s made up of 4,608 computer servers — each comprising processors (the brains of the computer). But what’s actually going on inside these processors is what makes the difference.  “Summit’s computer architecture is quite different from what we have had before,” Daniel Jacobson, a computational biologist at ORNL, who is working on Summit, told Live Science. For one thing, the computer uses the new Tensor Core feature in its graphics cards (made by Nvidia), which is designed specifically for applications focusing on machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI), and to be fast.

Basically, unlike older computer chips, these chips are optimized for a special type of mathematical operation on matrices — or rectangles filled with numbers with rules for adding, subtracting and multiplying the different rows and columns. Computers equipped with AI programs often learn using so-called neural networks, which have several layers in which lower calculations feed into higher ones. And this process requires the heavy use of matrices.

Read more here (Jeanna Bryner, This Supercomputer Can Calculate in 1 Second What Would Take You 6 Billion Years, Live Science, 15.06.2018)

Get ready for Samsung Galaxy S10

Korean news sources claim that Samsung is prepping to launch a Galaxy S10 flagship in January 2019. The reports also allege that MWC 2019, which takes place in February, will see a flexible folding OLED phone – possibly the Samsung Galaxy X – as the star of the show. Also a CROP of new Samsung Galaxy S10 concept images have just delivered the best look yet at the potential design of the upcoming smartphone. The stylish, purple-hued images reveal an in-screen fingerprint sensor, a triple-lens rear camera, and a transparent back that lets you peep the handset’s insides.


Credit: Samsung

What will improve the previous versions? The triple-lens camera, the in-display fingerprint sensor, and a transparent back panel.  It will keep its predecessor’s curved AMOLED display, however with an all-screen capability. Recent rumours suggest this screen will include crazy bone conduction technology that lets you hear phone calls by vibrating against your skull.

Source (Saqib Shah, Samsung Galaxy S10 design REVEALED? Concept pics show off under-screen fingerprint scanner and triple-lens camera, The Sun, 24.01.2019)

Tools to predict chaos

Engineers have developed tools that mathematically describe the kinetics in a system right before it dissolves into randomness. Led by Rajan K. Chakrabarty, assistant professor of energy, environmental and chemical engineering, the researchers have provided 11 equations that they applied to directional statistics. The resulting tools mathematically describe the kinetics in a system right before it dissolves into randomness as well as the walker’s turning angle distribution. The tools have the potential to be useful in predicting the onset of chaos in everything from nanoparticles to checking accounts.


Picture a herd of sheep or cattle emerging from a shed or barn to graze a field. They head straight out of their digs to the pleasure of the pasture pretty much as one entity, but as the land opens up and the “grass gets greener” they disperse randomly in a motion that has neither rhyme nor reason. Individual animals depart at different angles from the herd and then at different angles from their original departure and so on until “the cows come home.” In physics, this movement that starts off on the straight-and-narrow (ballistic) and is correlated and then dissolves into randomness (diffusive), uncorrelated, is called a ballistic-to-diffusive transition. Researchers in a number of fields call this motion a “random walk,” also known as diffusive motion, a universal phenomenon that occurs in both physical (atomic-cluster diffusion, nanoparticle scattering and bacterial migration) and nonphysical (animal foraging, stock price fluctuations and “viral” internet postings) systems.

Source (Washington University in St. Louis. “New tools reveal prelude to chaos.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 June 2018.)

Original paper: Liu, P., Heinson, W.R., Sumlin, B.J., Shen, K.Y. and Chakrabarty, R.K., 2018. Establishing the kinetics of ballistic-to-diffusive transition using directional statistics. Physical Review E97(4), p.042102.

Sun-powered tech to purify water with near-perfect efficiency

The idea of using energy from the sun to evaporate and purify water is ancient. The Greek philosopher Aristotle reportedly described such a process more than 2,000 years ago. Now, researchers are bringing this technology into the modern age, using it to sanitize water at what they report to be record-breaking rates. This could provide drinking water in regions where resources are scarce, or where natural disasters have struck.


Credit: Huaxiu Chen

By draping black, carbon-dipped paper in a triangular shape and using it to both absorb and vaporize water, they have developed a method for using sunlight to generate clean water. Gan explains, “Usually, when solar energy is used to evaporate water, some of the energy is wasted as heat is lost to the surrounding environment. This makes the process less than 100 percent efficient. Our system has a way of drawing heat in from the surrounding environment.”

Gan’s team addressed this challenge through a neat, counterintuitive trick: They increased the efficiency of their evaporation system by cooling it down. A central component of their technology is a sheet of carbon-dipped paper that is folded into an upside-down “V” shape, like the roof of a birdhouse. The bottom edges of the paper hang in a pool of water, soaking up the fluid like a napkin. At the same time, the carbon coating absorbs solar energy and transforms it into heat for evaporation. As Gan explains, the paper’s sloped geometry keeps it cool by weakening the intensity of the sunlight illuminating it. (A flat surface would be hit directly by the sun’s rays.) Because most of the carbon-coated paper stays under room temperature, it can draw in heat from the surrounding area, compensating for the regular loss of solar energy that occurs during the vaporization process. Using this set-up, researchers evaporated the equivalent of 2.2 liters of water per hour for every square meter of area illuminated by the regular sun, higher than the theoretical upper limit of 1.68 liters, according to the new study. The team conducted its tests in the lab, using a solar simulator to generate light at the intensity of one regular sun.

Source (University at Buffalo. “Engineers upgrade ancient, sun-powered tech to purify water with near-perfect efficiency: Low-cost device — shaped like a birdhouse — could help provide drinking water to people affected by natural disasters.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 May 2018.)

Original paper: Song, H., Liu, Y., Liu, Z., Singer, M.H., Li, C., Cheney, A.R., Ji, D., Zhou, L., Zhang, N., Zeng, X. and Bei, Z., 2018. Cold vapor generation beyond the input solar energy limit. Advanced Science5(8), p.1800222.