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Comment: Supercomputers already do drug design (Score 1) 57 57

Computational drug design is already a big topic in supercomputing, although it's much more focused on interactions of individual molecules. That's currently so complex that it's more efficient to build specialized machines (e.g. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A... ).

Comment: Why is the hardware so complex/expensive? (Score 2) 217 217

From what I read the dongle is merely the interface from the camera (USB) to the smartphone (USB). That should be trivial. (For my setup a USB OTG cable + adapter to mini USB is sufficient, there are tons of apps to control cameras).

The article states that they had to use a beefier micro controller etc., but I wonder: why not do all the processing on the smart phone? These days our phones have so much processing power AND sensors, there should be no need to do any kind of non-trivial logic outside, especially when you're just trying to launch your first product.

Comment: C++14 != C++98 (Score 3, Interesting) 407 407

I wish people would stop treating modern C++ as if time had been standing still in the past decades. Yes, C++ is complex, but also expressive. Modern features (e.g. lambdas+auto+templates) often let you write code which is just as concise as its Ruby counterpart, but much more efficient.

Comment: We're no longer at the origin (Score 1) 181 181

Architectural improvements for general purpose CPUs yield less and less benefits: Even more registers? Even better branch prediction? Even larger caches? It'll all yield but a few percent, at least for current Intel designs. So, the way to go is currently more and more cores, but what good is it to have many cores that can't all fire simultaneously?

Comment: Clickbait Caption, but Valid Arguments (Score 3, Insightful) 181 181

Of course general purpose CPUs exist, simply because we call them that way. But it is also true that each design has it's own strengths, and "dark silicon" is another driver for special purpose hardware. Efficiency is another. Andrew Chien has published some interesting research on this subject. In his 10x10 approach he suggests to use 10 different types of domain-specific compute units (e.g. for n-body, graphics, tree-walking...), each of which is 10x more efficient than "general purpose CPUs" in its domain (YMMV). Those compute units bundled together, make up one core of the 10x10 design. Multiple cores can be connected via a NoC.

Let's see how software will cope with this development...

ps: can special purpose hardware exist if general purpose hardware doesn't?

Comment: Re:Hai! (Score 1) 111 111

One reason might be that railways are more efficient in densely populated areas. There express trains can even compete with airplanes. Yesterday we went from Tokyo to Osaka. Flight time would have been ~1h, plus 1h checkin and transfer to/from the airport (~45min. each). The Nozomi Shinkansen took us there in 2:30, and both stations were directly at the center of the cities.

Most of Japan's population is situated in coastal regions, so just a hand full of routes can service all major cities. Imagine how many connections you'd need in the US...

Comment: Yesno? (Score 1) 89 89

It's not that specialized. It's just plenty of DSPs strapped together on a torus.

Actually Anton uses ASICS, their cores are specially geared at MD codes. This goes way beyond just "strapping together DSPs". They have IIRC ~70 hardware engineers on site. (Source: I've been to DE Shaw Research last year).

Unlike what wikipedia claims, you could probably achieve comparable performance using a more classical and general-purpose supercomputer setup with GPU or Xeon Phi accelerators, provided the network topology is well tuned to address this sort of communication scheme

No, you can't, and here is why: Anton is built for strong scaling of smallish, long running simulations. If you ran the same simulations on a "x86 + accelerator" system (think ORNL's Titan) then you'd observe two effects:

  • The GPU itself might idle a lot as each timestep only involves few computations, leaving many shaders idle or waiting for the DRAM.
  • Anton's network is insanely efficient for this use case. IIRC it's got a mechanism equivalent to Active Messages, so when data arrives, the CPU can immediately forward it to the computation which is waiting for it. That leads to a very low latency compared to a mainstream "InfiniBand + GPU" setup.

(most recent supercomputers don't use tori)

Let's take a look at the current Top 500:

  • #1 Tianhe-2: Fat Tree
  • #2 Titan: 3D Torus
  • #3 Sequoia: 5D Torus
  • #4 K Computer: 6D Torus
  • #5 Mira: 5D Torus
  • #6 Piz Daint: 3D Torus
  • #7 Stampede: Fat Tree
  • #8 JUQUEEN: 5D Torus
  • #9 Vulcan: 5D Torus
  • #10 nn: 3D Torus

So, torus networks are the predominant topology for current supercomputers.

Comment: Missing: Project Pluto (Score 3, Interesting) 133 133

Granted, it sounds a tad like an episode from Thunderbirds, but it's real: Project Pluto was a nuclear powered Supersonic Low Altitude Missile (SLAM). The idea was to drive the reactor into critical state and superheat the inflowing air, efficiently creating a nuclear powered scamjet. Downside: because the reactor was almost unshielded, all controls had to be designed to withstand extreme radiation and heat (they had to work in white heat conditions). The project was canceled in the 60s, but they actually built and powered up the engines.

Comment: /Very/ different hardware (Score 2) 89 89

Computational drug design and bitcoin miners have in common that both run best on custom hardware. The crux is, that both require very different types of hardware. As an example, please refer to Anton, designed by DE Shaw Research exactly for molecular dynamics (MD) codes.

Bitcoin mining is classified as a so called embarrassingly parallel algorithm, while MD is a tightly coupled problem. Hence an efficient parallelization for MD codes is much harder to speed up: communication gets in the way, and communication is essentially always bound by the speed of light.

ps: fun fact: bitcoin mining and MD can be carried out (at least somewhat) efficiently on GPUs.

+ - George R R Martin Reveals His Secret Weapon for Writing GOT- Wordstar

Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes: Ryan Reed writes that when most Game of Thrones fans imagine George R.R. Martin writing his epic fantasy novels, they probably picture the author working on a futuristic desktop (or possibly carving his words onto massive stones like the Ten Commandments). But the truth is that Martin works on an outdated DOS machine using Eighties word processor WordStar 4.0, as he revealed during an interview on Conan. "I actually like it," says Martin. "It does everything I want a word processing program to do, and it doesn't do anything else. I don't want any help. I hate some of these modern systems where you type a lower case letter and it becomes a capital letter. I don't want a capital. If I wanted a capital, I would have typed a capital. I know how to work the shift key." “I actually have two computers," Martin continued. “I have a computer I browse the Internet with and I get my email on, and I do my taxes on. And then I have my writing computer, which is a DOS machine, not connected to the Internet."

What is now proved was once only imagin'd. -- William Blake