dcblogs writes: The number of new undergraduate computing majors in U.S. computer science departments increased more than 29% last year, a pace called "astonishing" by the Computing Research Association. The increase was the fifth straight annual computer science enrollment gain, according to the CRA's annual survey of computer science departments at Ph.D.-granting institutions. The survey also found that more students are earning a Ph.D., with 1,929 degrees granted — an 8.2% increase over the prior year. The pool of undergraduate students represented in the CRA survey is 67,850. Of that number, 57,500 are in computer science.
dcblogs writes: China is on track to overtake the U.S. in spending on research and development in about 10 years, as federal R&D spending either declines or remains flat. The U.S. today maintains a large lead in R&D spending over China, with federal and private sector investment expected to reach $424 billion next year, a 1.2% increase. By contrast, China's overall R&D spending is $220 billion next year, an increase of 11.6% over 2012, a rate similar to previous years, according to the 2013 Global R&D Funding Forecast prepared by Battelle, a research and technology development organization, and R&D Magazine. This finding is shared by the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. "China's investment as a percentage of its GDP shows continuing, deliberate growth that, if it continues, should surpass the roughly flat United States investment within a decade," it said in a report last month.
dcblogs writes: The U.S. Dept. of Energy is now targeting 2020 to 2022 for an exascale system, two to four years later than earlier expectations. William Harrod, research division director in the advanced scientific computing in the DOE Office of Science, previewed its planned Exascale Computing Initiative report at the SC12 supercomputing conference last week. "When we started this, [the timetable was] 2018; now it's become 2020 but really it is 2022," said Harrod. DOE will soon release its report on its Exascale Computing Initiative as part of effort to get funding approved in the FY 2014 budget. But current fiscal problems in Congress, the so-called fiscal cliff in particular, makes Harrod pessimistic about funding for next year. "To be honest, I would be somewhat doubtful of that at this point in time," he said. "The biggest problem is the budget," said Harrod. "Until I have a budget, I really don't know what I'm doing," he said. DOE has not said how much money it will need, but analysts say billions of dollars will needed to develop an exascale system. A major research effort is needed because of power, memory, concurrency and resiliency challenges posed by exascale. Data transport may be the leading problem. In today's systems, data has to travel a long way which uses up power. Datasets are "being generated are so large that it's basically impractical to write the data out to disk and bring it all back in to analyze it," said Harrod. "We need systems that have large memory capacity. If we limit the memory capacity we limit the ability to execute the applications as they need to be run," he said.
dcblogs writes: After last night's presidential debate, the possible fate of Big Bird is now known. But the rival candidates gave no insight into the possible fate of exascale systems, the next generation of supercomputers. Neither Republican challenger Mitt Romney nor President Barack Obama detailed how the role of science and technology can stimulate the economy and create jobs. Neil deGrasse Tyson, an astrophysicist and director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, tweeted his frustration during the debate: "Hmm. Obama & Romney spent 22 min on job-creation with hardly a sentence on the seminal role of sci-tech innovation in 21st century economies." Obama and Romney responded to questions about innovation in Science Debate. But then, as last night, specifics were lacking. The Exascale Report recently surveyed members of that community and found much frustration. Here's one anonymous response from the survey: "The problem is deeper than the agenda of either presidential candidate. The problem comes from the lack of congressional commitment to very difficult and long-term research, and the fact that the science and technology leadership fails to connect the dots and recognize that economic recovery could very well be fueled by HPC innovation."
dcblogs writes: Most of what is called innovation today is mere distraction, according to a paper by economist Robert Gordon, written for the National Bureau of Economic Research. Real innovations involve things like the combustion engine or air conditioning, not the smartphone. The paper includes thought experiments to help you gain more respect for genuine innovations such as indoor plumbing. Here’s one, called “Option B.” Option B is that you get everything invented in the past decade right up to Facebook, Twitter, and the iPad, but you have to give up running water and indoor toilets. You have to haul the water into your dwelling and carry out the waste. Even at 3 a.m. on a rainy night, your only toilet option is a wet and perhaps muddy walk to the outhouse. Which option do you choose? The Financial Times has posted the complete 25-page paper.
dcblogs writes: The U.S. Senate Thursday killed a plan to build the Keystone pipeline and bring oil from tar sands and shale into the U.S. This exploitation worried NASA climate scientist James Hansen so much that he warned, in his book Storms of My Grandchildren, of a "Venus syndrome,” — runaway climate change so extreme that it leaves the planet overheated and dead. He argued that if the world burns tar sands and tar shale, “I believe the Venus syndrome is a dead certainty.” But the fossil fuel industry will likely win on Keystone eventually, unless the tech industry can offer an alternative narrative to job creation and alternative energy.
dcblogs writes: The science and engineering workforce in the U.S. has flatlined, according to the Population Reference Bureau. As a percentage of the total labor force, S&E workers accounted for 4.9% of the workforce in 2010, a slight decline from the three previous years when these workers accounted for 5% of the workforce.That percentage has been essentially flat for the past decade. In 2000, it stood at 5.3%. The reasons for this trend aren't clear but one factor may be retirements.S&E workers who are 55 and older accounted for 13% of this workforce in 2005; they accounted for 18% in 2010. "This might imply that there aren't enough young people entering the S&E labor force — and I really thought this might be a key issue," said I-Ling Shen, a senior research analyst and economist at the Milken Institute, regarding PRB's research.
dcblogs writes: The European Commission last week said it is doubling its multi-year investment in the push for exascale computing from [euro]630 million to [euro]1.2 billion (or the equivalent of $1.58 billion). They are making this a priority even as austerity measures are imposed to prevent defaults. China, meanwhile, has a five year plan to deliver exascale computing between 2016-20. The Europeans announced the plan the same week the White House released its fiscal year 2013 budget, which envisions a third year of anemic funding to develop exascale technologies. Last year, the U.S. Department of Energy science budget asked for nearly $91 million in funding for the efforts in the current fiscal year; it received $73.4 million. DOE science is trying for about $90 for exascale for 2013. There's more funding tucked in military and security budgets. The U.S. wants exascale around 2018, but it has yet to deliver a plan or the money for it.
dcblogs writes: The U.S. has yet to put in place a plan for building exascale systems, as Europe, China, Japan race ahead. The Europeans are prepared to commit up to 3.5 billion Euros to their effort and believe the race is wide open. "The U.S., Europe, China and Japan all have the potential to realize the first exascale system," concluded the European Exascale Software Initiative, the group that's leading Europe's effort, in a report last month. But in the U.S.: "The bottom line is that the US appears stalled and the EU, China, and Japan are gearing up for the next generation,” said Jack Dongarra, a professor of computer science at University of Tennessee, and one of the organizers of the Top 500. In 2008, China had 15 systems on the Top 500 list; it now has 74.
dcblogs writes: U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu says that climate models that don't include the impact of "tipping points," when climate change events start to cascade, aren't measuring all the risks posed by climate change. "To be sure, if you start to model the tipping points you put in much larger uncertainties, but there is a difference between uncertainty and inaccuracy," said Chu, at a talk Thursday at American Association for the Advancement of Science. The "long tail of the damage tail is out there," said Chu. Kerry Emanuel, a professor of atmospheric science at MIT, made a similar point at U.S. House hearing on climate change last week. (PDF) "Far from being alarmist, scientists have historically erred on the side of underestimating risk," said Emanuel. He cited Japan's recent 9 magnitude earthquake as an example. Seismologist estimated that the largest equarthquake that one could reasonably expect was about an 8.2 magnitude... And, in the climate arena, summertime arctic sea ice has been declining somewhat more rapidly than had been projected."