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Comment Re:Nice and all, but where's the beef? (Score 2) 127

P.S. - OSC is going to be doing a reddit AMA on Monday at 7:30PM Eastern. Feel free to hop on and ask us some questions!

“We will be answering questions about running a Supercomputer Center, High Performance Computing (HPC) and anything else. Our current systems have a total performance of 358 TeraFLOPS, and consist of 18,000 CPUs, 73 TB of RAM and 4 PB of storage, all connected to a 100 Gbps statewide network (yes, it will run Crysis, just barely;). We will be holding the AMA in conjunction with the gala opening of the 27th Supercomputing Conference in New Orleans, which annually hosts over 10,000 attendees from all over the world.”

Comment Re:Nice and all, but where's the beef? (Score 4, Informative) 127

There are countless problems solved only as a result of supercomputers. Setting aside for a minute the minority of problems that are classified (e.g. nuclear stockpile stewardship, etc), supercomputers benefit both academia and industry alike. You'll be hard pressed to find a Fortune 500 company that doesn't have at least one if not multiple supercomputers in house.

For example, here is a list of case studies of specific manufacturing problems that have been solved which include things as mundane as shipping pallets, golf clubs, and washing machines.

The organization I work for, the Ohio Supercomputer Center, annually publishes a research report listing primarily academic projects that benefit from our supercomputers: which range from Periodontal Disease, Photovoltaic Cells, Forest Management and Welding.

TL;DR: "HPC Matters" in many ways. Here's some short blinky flashy videos:

Submission + - First ever video taken inside supreme court!

chalker writes: CNN is reporting that the first ever video was recently secretly taken inside the supreme court!

"In an apparent first at the tradition-minded Supreme Court, an advocacy group surreptitiously recorded video of an oral argument that was interrupted by a spectator. The group, which supports campaign finance reform, posted the video of Wednesday's proceedings on YouTube as part of a protest over the issue. No electronic devices, or still or video cameras are permitted in the court's public sessions."

The fact that no photos or videos of Supreme Court sessions exist is likely a surprise to many people. Consider signing this We The People petition asking that Obama encourage the Chief Justice to change this policy:

Bitcoin Currency Surpasses 20 National Currencies In Total Value 583

Velcroman1 writes "More than $1 billion worth of bitcoins now circulate on the web – an amount that exceeds the value of the entire currency stock of small countries like Liberia, Bhutan, and 18 other countries. Bitcoin is in high demand right now — each bitcoin currently sells for more than $90 U.S. — which bitcoin insiders say is because of world events that have shaken confidence in government-issued currencies. 'Because of what's going on in Cyprus and Europe, people are trying to pull their money out of banks there,' said Tony Gallippi, the CEO, which enables businesses to easily accept bitcoins as payment. 'So they buy gold, they put it under the mattress, or they buy bitcoin,' Gallippi said."

4-Billion-Pixel Panorama View From Curiosity Rover 101

SternisheFan points out that there is a great new panorama made from shots from the Curiosity Rover. "Sweep your gaze around Gale Crater on Mars, where NASA's Curiosity rover is currently exploring, with this 4-billion-pixel panorama stitched together from 295 images. ...The entire image stretches 90,000 by 45,000 pixels and uses pictures taken by the rover's two MastCams. The best way to enjoy it is to go into fullscreen mode and slowly soak up the scenery — from the distant high edges of the crater to the enormous and looming Mount Sharp, the rover's eventual destination."

Comment The design is very robust (Score 5, Interesting) 98

Check out the official rover press kit for a summary of the computer design ( Page 42 in particular:

"Curiosity has redundant main computers, or rover compute elements. Of this “A” and “B” pair, it uses one at a time, with the spare held in cold backup. Thus, at a
given time, the rover is operating from either its “A” side or its “B” side. Most rover devices can be controlled by either side; a few components, such as the navigation camera, have side-specific redundancy themselves. The computer inside the rover — whichever side is active — also serves as the main computer for the rest of the Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft during the flight from Earth and arrival at Mars. In case the active computer resets for any reason during the critical minutes of entry, descent and landing, a software feature called “second chance” has been designed to enable the other side to promptly take control, and in most cases, finish the landing with a bare-bones version of entry, descent and landing instructions.

Each rover compute element contains a radiation-hardened central processor with PowerPC 750 architecture: a BAE RAD 750. This processor operates at up to 200 megahertz speed, compared with 20 megahertz speed of the single RAD6000 central processor in each of the Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity. Each of Curiosity’s redundant computers has 2 gigabytes of flash memory (about eight times as much as Spirit or Opportunity), 256 megabytes of dynamic random access memory and 256 kilobytes of electrically erasable programmable read-only memory.

The Mars Science Laboratory flight software monitors the status and health of the spacecraft during all phases of the mission, checks for the presence of commands to execute, performs communication functions and controls spacecraft activities. The spacecraft was launched with software adequate to serve for the landing and for operations on the surface of Mars, as well as during the flight from Earth to Mars. The months after launch were used, as planned, to develop and test improved flight software versions. One upgraded version was sent to the spacecraft in May 2012 and installed onto its computers in May and June. This version includes improvements for entry, descent and landing. Another was sent to the spacecraft in June and will be installed on the rover’s computers a few days after landing, with improvements for driving the rover and using its robotic arm."

And according to a release they issued after landing, both computers receive the same updates and are running the same software (not a version or 2 behind like others have suggested):

Comment Robot Odyssey (or similar)! (Score 4, Informative) 246

Way back when, at that age, I first got interested in programming via the game Robot Odyssey (

According to the Wikipedia page there are modern day clones and derivatives:

"The engine for the game was written by Warren Robinett, and variants of it were used in many of The Learning Company's graphical adventure games of the time, including Rocky's Boots, Gertrude's Secrets, Gertrude's Puzzles, and Think Quick!, all of which are similar but easier logic puzzle games. The gameplay and visual design were derived from Robinett's influential Atari 2600 video game, Adventure.

Carnage Heart involves programming mechas that then fight without any user input.

Cognitoy's MindRover is a relatively recent game which is similar in spirit to Robot Odyssey, but uses different programming concepts in its gameplay.

ChipWits by Doug Sharp and Mike Johnston, a game for the Apple II, Macintosh, and Commodore 64 computers is similar in both theme and implementation, although the interface to program your robot differed.

Epsitec Games created Colobot and Ceebot in recent years for Windows machines which are in many ways spiritual successors to Robot Odyssey. In these games the player program machines to accomplish puzzle tasks. Instead of using logic flops, switches, etc., these two games instead teach the player the fundamentals of object oriented programming like Java, C++, or C#.

One Girl One Laptop productions created a spiritual successor called Gate which uses the same digital logic puzzles as Robot Odyssey.

There is also a clone written in Java, Droidquest, which contains all of the original levels and an additional secret level."

Comment Re:150 kg dead weight? (Score 5, Informative) 140

It all has to do with shifting the center of mass. From the official NASA press kit:

After the turn to entry, the back shell jettisons two solid tungsten weights, called the “cruise balance mass devices.”
Ejecting these devices, which weigh about 165 pounds (75 kilograms) each, shifts the center of mass of
the spacecraft. During the cruise and approach phases, the center of mass is on the axis of the spacecraft’s
stabilizing spin. Offsetting the center of mass for the period during which the spacecraft experiences dynamic
pressure from interaction with the atmosphere gives the Mars Science Laboratory the ability to generate lift,
essentially allowing it to fly through the atmosphere. The ability to generate lift during entry increases this mission’s
capability to land a heavier robot, compared to previous Mars surface missions.
The spacecraft also manipulates that lift, using a technique called “guided entry,” to steer out unpredictable
variations in the density of the Mars atmosphere, improving the precision of landing on target.
During guided entry, small thrusters on the back shell can adjust the angle and direction of lift, enabling the
spacecraft to control how far downrange it is flying. The spacecraft also performs “S” turns, called bank reversals,
to control how far to the left or right of the target it is flying. These maneuvers allow the spacecraft to
correct position errors that may be caused by atmosphere effects, such as wind, or by spacecraft modeling
errors. These guided entry maneuvers are performed autonomously, controlled by the spacecraft’s computer
in response to information that a gyroscope-containing inertial measurement unit provides about deceleration
and direction, indirect indicators of atmospheric density and winds.

After the spacecraft finishes its guided entry maneuvers, a few seconds before the parachute is deployed, the
back shell jettisons another set of tungsten weights to shift the center of mass back to the axis of symmetry.
This set of six weights, the “entry balance mass devices,” each has a mass of about 55 pounds
(25 kilograms). Shedding them re-balances the spacecraft for the parachute portion of the descent.

Comment Re:IME (Score 1) 514

Strange, nobody I know collects or picks up the clippings. That's what recycling mowers are for.. they chop them up fine enough that you can't even tell they are on the lawn. It lets the nutrients stay on the lawn, and you don't have to worry about what to do with the waste, so it's the best 'environmentally' friendly solution.

Comment Science Olympiad and Fringe (TV show) (Score 1) 225

Take a look at the Science of Fringe: : "Check this page each week starting September 23 for free downloadable Lesson Plans that mix "Fringe" science with elements of Science Olympiad Division C events like Disease Detectives, Forensics, Sounds of Music, Chem Lab, and Dynamic Planet. Teachers and students in Grades 9-12 can use the plans in the classroom as special projects, tied into curriculum or as Friday brain teasers. Every plan will include learning objectives, online resources, a hands-on activity, discussion suggestions, extensions, episode scenes of relevance, and National Science Standards Alignment. "

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