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UPI NewsTrack Science and Technology News

June 18, 2012 at 7:03 PM   |   Comments

U.S. supercomputer is world's fastest

LIVERMORE, Calif., June 18 (UPI) -- An IBM supercomputer at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California was ranked the world's most powerful computer, officials said.

Clocking in at 16.32 sustained petaflops, or quadrillion floating point operations, per second, the Sequoia supercomputer earned the No. 1 ranking on the industry-standard Top500 list of the world's fastest supercomputers at the International Supercomputing Conference in Hamburg, Germany, eWeek.com reported Monday.

The computer, built for the National Nuclear Security Administration, is dedicated to NNSA's Advanced Simulation and Computing program for stewardship of the nation's nuclear weapons stockpile, a joint effort of the LLNL, Los Alamos National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratories, IBM said.

"Computing platforms like Sequoia help the United States keep its nuclear stockpile safe, secure, and effective without the need for underground testing," NNSA Administrator Thomas D'Agostino said in a statement.

Supercomputer simulations are vital to addressing non-proliferation and counterterrorism issues as well as informing other national security decisions such as nuclear weapon policy and treaty agreements, officials said.

Sequoia is primarily water-cooled and consists of 96 racks, 98,304 compute nodes, 1.6 million processor cores and 1.6 petabytes of memory.


Centuries-old volcano mystery solved?

SELFOSS, Iceland, June 18 (UPI) -- A 13th century volcano mystery may be solved, a French researcher says, although he says he is not ready to name the erupting culprit just yet.

Researchers have long known a large volcano erupted somewhere in the world around the 13th century causing a global cool-down, but they didn't know exactly where or when.

Franck Lavigne, a geoscientist at Pantheon-Sorbonne University's Laboratory of Physical Geography in Meudon, France, has offered data and close-up photographs -- at a conference on volcanism and the atmosphere in Iceland -- of the remains of what he says is the guilty volcano.

He would not reveal the name of the specific volcano, saying he had agreed with his research colleagues not to identify it until the work is published in a peer-reviewed journal, ScienceNews.org reported.

Most volcanologists at the conference said they suspected the pictures were likely of an Indonesian volcano, but Lavigne is remaining mum for the moment.

Ice cores from Greenland and Antarctica dating to the 13th century contain huge amounts of sulfur, and tree rings, historical records and other evidence suggest the planet cooled soon thereafter.

Lavigne said geochemical analyses of rocks from his mystery volcano matched the chemistry of the polar sulfur almost perfectly.

"We think the eruption may have been in the late spring or summer of 1257," he said.

Many scientists say they remain to be convinced and will await the publication of Lavigne's findings.


Umbrella charges cellphone, boosts signal

LONDON, June 18 (UPI) -- British cellphone carrier Vodaphone says its Booster Brolly umbrella will allow users to charge their phones while also improving cellular reception.

Developed by Kenneth Tong, a lecturer in antennas and microwave technology at University College London, it features a dozen 2-volt solar panels hand-stitched into the umbrella to charge a cellphone, GigaOm.com reported.

The umbrella has aluminum struts to improve conductivity and a small high-gain antenna with signal repeater to improve reception for a cellphone clipped to the umbrella's central carbon fiber pole.

When clipped to the umbrella the cellphone can be charged, communicate with an improved signal and offer hands-free usage.

Vodaphone is offering the Booster Brolly at a number of festival events in Britain this summer, the report said.


Chinese astronauts move into orbiting lab

BEIJING, June 18 (UPI) -- China says three of its astronauts have moved into the cabin of an orbiting module, becoming the first group of Chinese to enter an orbiter in space.

Astronauts Jing Haipeng, Liu Wang and Liu Yang transferred into the Tiangong-1 space lab module from their Shenzhou-9 spacecraft Monday about 3 hours after a successful automatic docking procedure, China's state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

"Shenzhou-9 crew members feel great!" Liu Wang reported to the Beijing Aerospace Control Center.

The three astronauts, including the country's first female astronaut Liu Yang, were launched into space Saturday from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China's Gobi desert.

The astronauts are the first tenants in the 530-cubic-foot cabin of Tiangong-1, which has been orbiting Earth for 262 days since its September 2011 launch.

The event is considered a major step forward in China's plans to build a space station by 2020, in time for the likely retirement of the International Space Station.

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