SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

Eka is the one
India breaks the supercomputer glass ceiling
It is indeed a proud moment for India as Tata’s Eka supercomputer has made a spectacular entry as the most powerful computer in Asia. It has also been ranked as the fourth fastest in the world in the Top 500 ranking of supercomputers.

Breakthrough in embryo research
A technical breakthrough has enabled scientists to create for the first time dozens of cloned embryos from adult monkeys, raising the prospect of the same procedure being used to make cloned human embryos.

Trends
Small planets forming
Small, rocky planets that could resemble the earth or Mars may be forming around a star in the Pleiades star cluster, astronomers reported on Wednesday.

  • Health impact of nanotech

Prof Yash Pal

Prof Yash Pal

PROF YASH PAL
THIS UNIVERSE 
The spin of the earth is 1000 miles per hour and its direction is east to west. Planet Venus, similar in size and mass, rotates backwards, west to east; its day lasts 243 earth days giving a spin rotation of about 4 miles per hour. Planet Uranus rotates on its side. 

 


Top






Eka is the one
India breaks the supercomputer glass ceiling
Roopinder Singh

(From left) Tata Strategic CEO Ragu Bhinge, Director, CRL, R.R. Shastry and Head, Embedded Innovation Lab Sunil Sherlekar during the announcement of Computational Research Laboratories in Mumbai.
(From left) Tata Strategic CEO Ragu Bhinge, Director, CRL, R.R. Shastry and Head, Embedded Innovation Lab Sunil Sherlekar during the announcement of Computational Research Laboratories in Mumbai on Tuesday. — PTI photo

It is indeed a proud moment for India as Tata’s Eka supercomputer has made a spectacular entry as the most powerful computer in Asia. It has also been ranked as the fourth fastest in the world in the Top 500 ranking of supercomputers.

What exactly is a supercomputer, you might well ask. Well, it is a computer that works at many times the speed of normal computer and has immense power compared to the normal computers that we see.

The main use of supercomputers is to perform highly calculation-intensive tasks. They would include problems involving quantum physics, analysing data to forecast weather, research on climate and global warming, molecular modelling, etc. No wonder such computers are to be seen at top universities, or with the defence services, or at research laboratories.

In fact, the Top500 list is released twice a year by the University of Tennessee, USA; Mannheim University, Germany, and at NERSC Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory which together rank supercomputers worldwide. The test is based on the well respected Linpack N*N Benchmark, which checks processor speed and scalability.

The computer was built by Tata engineers at the Computational Research Laboratories (CRL) in Pune. It cost Rs 118.11 crore ($30 million). The supercomputer was designed by Tata engineers and built with off-the-rack hardware sourced from Hewlett Packard that helped keep the cost of the supercomputer relatively low.

Eka performs at 120 teraflops (trillion floating point calculations). The speed of floating point operations, or FLOPS, is of significance in scientific calculations, since it involves numbers with a floating or decimal point.

The top supercomputer, IBM’s Blue Gene/L, which has been installed in the US, beat others by a tremendous margin; it was almost three times faster than any other machine and four times faster than Eka. It performed at 478.2 teraflops. While American supercomputers have dominated the world, now there is a change in the pecking order, and India’s entry into the elite list is a matter of considerable significance.

Of course, a computer is only useful if it has applications that harness its power productively. It is here that Tata’s software muscle comes into play. CRL has said it is developing applications in as diverse areas as neural simulation, molecular simulation, computational fluid dynamics and crash simulation. S. Ramadorai, Chairman, CRL, highlighted the role of the system in earthquake and Tsunami modelling, as well as its usage in understanding the economy and designing drugs.

Earlier, Param supercomputers, developed by the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC), also in Pune, had propelled India’s entry into the supercomputer arena and Param Padma was ranked No. 171 on the Top500 list in 2003.

The network-centric storage architecture of Param computers is based on state-of-the-art Storage Area Network (SAN) technologies that ensure high performance, scalability and reliable storage.

There was a time when the US had refused to allow a Cray supercomputer to be sent to India. Today, India is in a position to not only make supercomputers but also export them, if it desires to do so. Eka means one in Sanskrit. It is the one that has showcased of India’s growing computer power to the world.
Top

Breakthrough in embryo research
Steve Connor

A technical breakthrough has enabled scientists to create for the first time dozens of cloned embryos from adult monkeys, raising the prospect of the same procedure being used to make cloned human embryos.

Attempts to clone human embryos for research have been dogged by technical problems and controversies over fraudulent research and questionable ethics. But the new technique promises to revolutionise the efficiency by which scientists can turn human eggs into cloned embryos.

It is the first time that scientists have been able to create viable cloned embryos from an adult primate, in this case a 10-year-old male rhesus macaque monkey, and they are scheduled to report their findings later this month.

The scientists will also demonstrate that they have been able to extract stem cells from some of the cloned embryos and that they have managed to encourage these embryonic cells to develop in the laboratory into mature heart cells and brain neurons. — The Independent
Top

PROF YASH PAL
THIS UNIVERSE 

The spin of the earth is 1000 miles per hour and its direction is east to west. Planet Venus, similar in size and mass, rotates backwards, west to east; its day lasts 243 earth days giving a spin rotation of about 4 miles per hour. Planet Uranus rotates on its side. Its summers and winters are 21 earth-year long. Planet Jupiter, the biggest in the solar system, spins fastest at the rate of 28000 miles per hour. How can one reconcile or understand these wide discrepancies?

Sticking with the basic argument given in answer to the previous question we can give the following explanation for the apparent discrepancies you have pointed out:

Different rates of spin depend on the rotation period of the original cloud from which the planets congealed. In the relatively chaotic phase of formation of the solar system no uniformity can be prescribed in this regard.

For example Jupiter must have contracted from an enormously large rotating cloud of dust and gas. That is the reason it spins so fast.

Slow retrograde rotation of Venus probably comes from the fact that its parent cloud was rotating very slowly in that reverse direction.

Uranus must have been knocked on its side early in its history by a large body. Such collisions were not that unlikely.

Kepler’s Laws, of course, decide the length of the year for all celestial bodies, namely that further away the planet is from the Sun the longer is the time it takes to make one revolution. In fact that is how we determine planetary distances.

All these suggestions are almost obligated because the basic facts of planetary motion are so well described by the well-established laws.
Top

Trends
Small planets forming

Small, rocky planets that could resemble the earth or Mars may be forming around a star in the Pleiades star cluster, astronomers reported on Wednesday.

One of the stars in the cluster, also known as the Seven Sisters, is surrounded by an extraordinary number of hot dust particles that could be the “building blocks of planets” said Inseok Song, a staff scientist at NASA’s Spitzer Science Center at the California Institute of Technology.

“This is the first clear evidence for planet formation in the Pleiades, and the results we are presenting may well be the first observational evidence that terrestrial planets like those in our solar system are quite common,” said Joseph Rhee of the University of California Los Angeles, who led the study. — Reuters

Health impact of nanotech

Nanotechnology has been hailed as the science of the future, with micro-particles already powering innovations that remove lines from faces, strengthen beer bottles and clean clothing without water.

Yet early studies also indicate some of these particles, enabled by the latest in engineering science, can cause cancer.

“We should recognise that there will be mistakes, and there will be hazards,” said Prof Harry Kroto, who won the 1996 Nobel Prize in chemistry for his discovery of a nanoparticle called the Buckminsterfullerene.

“On the other hand, there’s a possibility that the value of nanotechnology will be overwhelming. For me, it is the science of the 21st century.” — AP



HOME PAGE

Top