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UPI NewsTrack Science and Technology News

Jan. 28, 2013 at 7:06 PM   |   Comments

Supercomputer sets computing record

PALO ALTO, Calif., Jan. 28 (UPI) -- Engineers at California's Stanford University say they set a record in computer science by using a supercomputer with more than 1 million computing cores.

Researcher Joseph Nichols of the school's Center for Turbulence Research used the Sequoia IBM Bluegene/Q system at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories to solve a complex fluid dynamics problem: the prediction of noise generated by a supersonic jet engine.

The million-core fluid dynamics simulations will contribute to research aimed at designing quieter aircraft engines, researchers said.

"Computational fluid dynamics simulations, like the one Nichols solved, are incredibly complex," said engineering Professor Parviz Moin, the director of the turbulence research center.

The simulations allow researchers to model and measure processes occurring within the harsh jet exhaust environment otherwise inaccessible to experimental equipment, he said.

"Only recently, with the advent of massive supercomputers boasting hundreds of thousands of computing cores, have engineers been able to model jet engines and the noise they produce with accuracy and speed."


Secrets of spider silk's strength studied

TEMPE, Ariz., Jan. 28 (UPI) -- U.S. researchers say studies of spider webs have revealed why the fiber that spiders spin is, weight for weight, at least five times as strong as piano wire.

Using a sophisticated but non-invasive laser light scattering technique, scientists at the University of Arizona have determined a wide variety of elastic properties of the silk in several intact spiders' webs, a university release reported.

"Spider silk has a unique combination of mechanical strength and elasticity that make it one of the toughest materials we know," chemistry and biochemistry Professor Jeffery Yarger said. "This work represents the most complete understanding we have of the underlying mechanical properties of spider silks."

Spider silk is a biological polymer, related to collagen in skin and bones but much more complex in its structure, the researchers said.

The researchers said studying its molecular structure could lead to materials ranging from bulletproof vests to artificial tendons.

"This information should help provide a blueprint for structural engineering of an abundant array of bio-inspired materials, such as precise materials engineering of synthetic fibers to create stronger, stretchier, and more elastic materials," Yarger said.


New car mirror avoids 'blind spot'

WASHINGTON, Jan. 28 (UPI) -- A new car side-view mirror may eliminate the "blind spot" in traffic without distorting the perceived distance of approaching cars, a U.S. journal reports.

Research presented in the Optical Society of America's journal Optics Letters describes a design for a mirror that would be free of blind spots, have a wide field of view, and produce images that are accurately scaled to the true size of an approaching object.

A curved mirror, such as used on the passenger side of U.S. vehicles, can show more angle of view but make any object seen in it look smaller in size and farther away than it actually is, which is why such mirrors always carry the warning "Objects in mirror are closer than they appear."

U.S. and Korean researchers have proposed using a "progressive additive" optics technology commonly used in "no-line multifocal" eyeglasses, where it simultaneously corrects nearsightedness and compensates for reduced focusing ability.

The car mirror design would feature a curvature where the inner zone is for distance viewing and the outer zone is for near-field viewing to compensate for what otherwise would be blind spots.

"The image of a vehicle approaching from behind would only be reduced in the progressive zone in the center," Hocheol Lee at Hanbat National University in Korea said, "while the image sizes in the inner and outer zones are not changed."

Such a design, the researchers said, would offer a greatly expanded field of view, more reliable depth perception and no blind spot.


Japan launches two spy satellites

TOKYO, Jan. 28 (UPI) -- Japan says it successfully launched two surveillance satellites from its Tanegashima Space Center in Kagoshima prefecture Sunday.

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency said one of the satellites, equipped with radar, is capable of identifying objects just one meter across even in bad weather and at night, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported.

In combination with two optical sensor satellites and another radar satellite already in orbit, this satellite will make it possible to observe any spot on Earth once a day, officials said.

Japan has significantly stepped up it surveillance satellite capabilities following ballistic missile test launches conducted by North Korea, the latest one in December.

A demonstration satellite with a high-resolution optical system for engineering test purposes was also launched Sunday, with the two satellites being put into a polar orbit circling Earth south to north, they said.

Equipped with a powerful telescopic lens, the optical satellite is reported to have a discrimination capability equal to that of U.S. private-sector spy satellites that can identify objects on Earth about 15 inches in diameter during clear weather.

The two satellites were launched under the authority of the Cabinet Satellite Intelligence Center, operating with a budget appropriation for fiscal 2012 of around $10.1 billion.

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