Archive for October, 2007
The HLRS, the federal high performance computing center in Stuttgart, about 500m away from my current office, has a NEC SX-8 installed.
It is everything else but trivial to write code that can take advantage of all the cores and all the bandwidth. Certainly, the power behind such systems is mighty.
The fires in California, especially the San Diego area are turning into a big thing!
(Photo made in GoogleEarth with data from here)
The territory around the North Pole has been on an international spotlight especially since Russia recently dove in a submarine to the sea-floor and planted their flag down there. Of course, the lure of a shipping route through the North has always been kindling. Global Warming might lead to an ice-free passage in the summer — this is what has actually happened this summer. The BBC has somebody on a Canadian Coast Guard ship traveling the Northwest Passage, and produced really interesting videos and a diary.
One expression that a researcher in the BBC footage uses is “tipping point”, a word that probably came into style since Malcolm Gladwell, son of a University of Waterloo math prof, published a great book with “tipping point” as its title. Within the current context, “tipping point” means the
oft-debated point when the loss of ice and the increase in warmth will result in a permanently changed polar region that defies the ebb and flow of freezing and unfreezing that characterizes the region. (quoted from Arctic moving towards tipping point).
Franz Alt, some german guy I’ve never heard about before was recently interviewed on his thoughts on global drinking water shortages. He’s not an engineer, but I thought the interview is interesting. While we are in the “general interest” section, here is how water works.
A team of the University of Darmstadt won the “solar decathlon”. I’m not sure who should live in that house, and in what region of the world, but I think it looks interesting. Finally, Georgia might or might not have water problems.
Germany is in a hype because two german researchers won this year’s Nobel Prices in Physics and Chemistry: Peter GrÃ¼nberg from the Forschungszentrum JÃ¼lich together with Albert Fert (France) for their work on magnet resistance, and Gerhard Ertl (Fritz Haber Institute Berlin) for his research on processes on solid surfaces, respectively. In previous years, the lack of german researchers winning a Nobel Price was taken as the main argument to claim that german research sucks. The two guys winning two of this year’s prices are taken as clear evidence, that german research is not so bad after all. Only the universities are a little bit behind because both Nobel Price winners currently are employed at federal research centers. Nobody tells us when or where they did the actual work that made them win the prices now.
There are people out there who are certain that the climate is changing, and they are trying to do something against that. One idea is to dump a whole bunch of iron into the oceans which then reduces global greenhouse-gas pollution. Patrick surely knows more about that. Wired calls the act of thinking and planning such activities global climate engineering. Interesting point:
Calls for regulation might sound wimpy in the face of climate-change risks. There’s broad scientific agreement on the dangers of a warming planet: drought, famine, social and economic unrest — catastrophes that could be just decades away. Or, if we hit so-called tipping points, such as unexpectedly fast-melting polar-ice caps, or a thawing Siberian permafrost, they might be a few years away.
The Guardian Weekly (in its issue October 5-11, 2007, page 6) reports that chinese officials admit for the first time major problems with the Three Georges Dam which was finished last year, and since the planning phase has been object of major criticism. As far as I can recollect, this is the first statement that I’ve read so far that admits that there are problems. And substantial problems:
Chinaâ€™s showcase hydro-engineering project, the Three Gorges Dam, could become an environmental catastrophe unless remedial action is taken, the state media reported last week. [...] officials warned that landslides and pollution were among the â€œhidden dangersâ€ facing the worldâ€™s biggest hydro-electric plant. The alarmist reports, carried by the Xinhua news agency and the Peopleâ€™s Daily website, were in stark contrast to the congratulatory tone of most domestic coverage of the project, which was planned for flood control along the Yangtze and for lessening Chinaâ€™s dependence on power driven by coal.
[...] ‘There are many new and old hidden ecological and environmental dangers concerning the Three Gorges Dam,’ Xinhua quoted officials as saying. ‘If preventive measures are not taken, the project could lead to a catastrophe.’ [...] Li Chunming, vice-governor of Hubei, reportedly said that tributaries were being affected by outbreaks of algae. According to Xinhua, the rising volume of water in the reservoir behind the dam has eroded river banks along 91 stretches of the Yangtze, triggering landslides. The sudden collapses of soil into the water has created waves that have been up to 50 m high, the agency said.
[...] The prime minister, Wen Jiabao, raised these issues in the state council this year. His senior advisers have warned that the problems are as yet far from solved. ‘We cannot lower our guard against ecological and environmental problems caused by the Three Gorges project,’ Wang Xiaofeng, director in charge of building the dam, was quoted as saying. ‘We cannot win by achieving economic prosperity at the cost of the environment.’