Tech: China has way more of the world’s most powerful computers than the US

Tech: China has way more of the world’s most powerful computers than the US
Danny Rotscher, IT specialist of the centre for information services and supercomputers of the technical university in Dresden, checks the new petaflop computer in the centre for information services and supercomputers of the technical university in Dresden, Germany, 13 May 2015. The official handover of the computer took place on the same day. The German government and the state Saxony invested 60 million euros in buildings and infrastructure. Dresden is the largest location for supercomputers in East-Germany due to the new computer in the 'Petaflops' field and also a member of the Gauss alliance.
China has extended its lead over the United States in supercomputing supremacy, claiming a much bigger share of the world’s fastest machines.
Now, it has surpassed the US by a record margin—nearly 60—to become the nation with the most supercomputers, according to the latest Top 500 survey, one of the most comprehensive reports tracking high-performance computing. The report, out Monday (Nov. 13), came during the SC conference, an annual international meeting on high-performance computing networking since 1988, held this year in Denver.
The TOP 500 list, which is updated twice a year, has been ranking supercomputers for the past 25 years by the speed with which they perform mathematical calculations. Performance is measured in petaflops, or one thousand trillion floating point operations per second. Based on this measurement, China has a whopping 202 of the 500 supercomputers with the fastest calculation speeds in the world, followed by the US with 143. According to the list, the US’s number of these systems has shrunk to its lowest since the list was first composed in 1993.
China did overtake the US before—last summer—but only by two(paywall), and then fell behind again. The gains reflect China’s determination to transform from a low-cost manufacturing hub to a global leader in scientific innovation in areas ranging from artificial intelligence to genetic research (paywall).
What do supercomputers do, exactly? They are bulky, expensive systems equipped with tens of thousands of processors to perform intensive calculations. Sunway TaihuLight, the world’s fastest supercomputer since June 2016, with a calculation speed of 93 petaflops per second (Pflop/s), has over 10.6 million cores—compared to a MacBook that has four cores. At Sunway’s peak performance, the calculations could even reach 125.4 Pflop/s, according to the University of Tennessee.
Built entirely with made-in-China chips, Sunway now sits in China’s National Supercomputing Center in the eastern city of Wuxi, and has been used for calculations in areas that China has been seeking to take the lead in. The machine was used for wave forecasting —a useful modeling tool for assessing climate change as height, frequency, and direction are affected by climate patterns. China’s president Xi Jinping recently said the country is “taking a driving seat” in fighting climate change, and being able to produce cutting-edge research in this domain will help.
Sunway also participated in an extensive turbulence simulation for China’s first space station, Tiangong 1, launched in 2011 as part of China’s scientific push to make the country a space superpower. It took the computer only 20 days to finish a task that would normally take 12 months.
In the world of supercomputer racing, however, things can change in the blink of an eye. The US still occupies four spots of the world’s top 10 fastest supercomputers, according to the Top 500 list, compared with two from China. The US Department of Energy is working to launch IBM-system-backed Summit which runs at 200 Pflop/s in 2018, according to a Computerworld report.
Jeff Nicols, associate director at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory under the DOE, said in a video introducing Summit that the supercomputer could be “five to 10 times greater than the performance of Titan (video)”—currently the top American supercomputer on the Top 500 list.
The next big race is also on, to build an “exascale” computer—which can perform a billion billion operations a second (1,000 Pflop/s). The US has said it will achieve this milestone with the Aurora by 2021. China hopes to do it by 2020.

Grass That Tastes Like Salt And Vinegar Chips Discovered in Australia

Grass That Tastes Like Salt And Vinegar Chips Discovered in Australia
While cataloguing a bunch of native grass species, researchers in Australia discovered that one of them tastes exactly like the flavouring found on salt and vinegar chips. And yes, they did that by literally licking their fingers.
As many surprise findings, the discovery happened by accident while scientists were working overtime late at night. In this case, biologists from the University of Western Australia (UWA) were handling specimens of the grass species in the lab.
"Someone licked their hand at some point and tasted that flavour," biologist Matthew Barrett told Lisa Morrison at ABC North West.
The grasses handled by the researchers were all types of spinifex (of the Triodiagenus) - an iconic native Australian plant known for its hardiness and ability to resist even the worst droughts in the arid inland of the red continent.
At least 64 different Triodia species are found across Australia, although researchers think the number might be even larger, as some species have only a small range and are tucked away in difficult to access locations.
New discoveries and genetic revisions are changing the taxonomy of these spiky grasses, and it was during one such taxonomic revision that the team stumbled upon the striking flavour of one of the new species they were describing.
The strange flavouring appears to be coming from tiny droplets of liquid found on younger grass stems.
"It looks pretty inconspicuous when you first get to it, but if you look at it very closely it has very, very minute sparkling droplets on the stems," said Barrett.
"When you lick them, they taste like salt and vinegar chips."
The tangy, sparkly grass - Triodia scintillans - is now one of a group of eight new species described by Barrett and UWA PhD student Ben Anderson.
In their study, the researchers note that the flavour droplets found on the grass "can remain a viscous liquid or become crystalline following specimen drying." However, the stuff is water-soluble and can be washed off the leaves.
Many grasses secrete sticky sugars, proteins, and even salt from teeny tiny microhairs on the surface of their leaves, and the researchers hypothesise that the sparkly droplets they've found on T. scintillans are homologous to this behaviour.
While they mention the sparkly droplets as part of the new species description, the flavour of the grass didn't make it into the study.
But this finding is just one more thing to add to the coolness factor of this iconic Australian plant. Indigenous Australians have known about some of its clever properties all along, as they've been using spinifex resins as adhesive for thousands of years.
Source: ScienceAlert

How a bug inspired Hong Kong engineers to invent clothes you never have to wash

How a bug inspired Hong Kong engineers to invent clothes you never have to wash
Image result for how a bug inspired Hong Kong engineers to invent clothes you never have to wash
Researchers from the University of Hong Kong have engineered a new material that can repel “water, oil and everything in between”, while also having durability and the possibility of mass production at a low cost.
The material works like a membrane surface made up of a patchwork of interconnected “micro- cavities”, much like the porous cuticles of the springtail, a tiny soil-dwelling insect. The springtail breathes through microscopic holes in its body.
“Nature is very clever. It invented [this for us],” research team leader Professor Wang Liqiu, from HKU’s mechanical engineering department, said.
Image result for how a bug inspired Hong Kong engineers to invent clothes you never have to wash
Few fabrics or finishes on the market could achieve such properties, and even if they did, were often derived from chemical processes which pollute and were expensive, Wang said. “Our material uses only a physical process to modify the structure of the surface.”
Researchers said the material, costing about HK$1 per square metre, is much cheaper than commercially-available products such as polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) water-repellent film.
The research findings were published earlier this year in the scientific journal Nature Communications and a patent is now pending approval.
The membrane is first created by coating an existing surface, for example, glass, with an emulsion of “micro-fluid” – droplets of water or oil containing polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) – which are then left to evaporate naturally, leaving behind a residue of solidified PVA.
Once the residue is washed off, tiny micro-cavities are retained that keep liquid from making contact with the surface.
“I can foresee wider applications in many different areas,” Wang said. “One important area is in textiles. By keeping liquids off fabric, it reduces the cost of laundry or even abandons the need [to wash clothes] altogether.”
Dr Zhu Pingan, one of the researchers on the team, said that apart from textiles, the coating could also be applied to the surfaces of cars, ships, planes and even naval submarines to reduce friction between the vessel bodies and the air or water, improving speed and fuel efficiency.
Wang said at least one German kitchenware company had expressed interest in the technology.
“Right now, we are calling it ‘liquid repellent surface’. Hopefully we’ll have a sexier name for it soon,” he joked.
Credit: scmp

A simple, Low-cost Method for boosting the strength of Wi-Fi signals using Aluminum Foil

Scientists have discovered a simple, low-cost method for boosting the strength of Wi-Fi signals inside your home, and it relies on a household staple almost everybody keeps on hand in their kitchen: aluminium foil.
By using a reflector shield of aluminium foil as a 'virtual wall' positioned behind your Wi-Fi router, the team says it's possible to help shape the flow of indoor wireless signals, potentially giving your home network greater coverage and speeds.
"Through this single solution, we address a number of challenges that plague wireless users," says computer scientist Xia Zhou from Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire.
"Not only do we strengthen wireless signals, we make those same signals more secure."

Inspired by a DIY hack where people use aluminium soft-drink cans to try to boost their Wi-Fi, the researchers wanted to investigate if there was a way of using the same idea to more optimally direct wireless signals from a router.
While there's definitely anecdotal evidence that using the aluminium from an empty drink can can help boost your Wi-Fi, the shortcoming of the technique is that you end up with a curved, generic panel as your reflector.
Since the layout of everybody's home is different, just putting up a can shaped like a kind of radar dish and hoping for the best isn't very scientific - it doesn't give you much control over where the aluminium directs the wireless signals.
To improve upon the idea, Zhou's team came up with what it calls WiPrint: a system that analyses the internal layout of your home, mapping portions of it where you'd like to see your Wi-Fi signal boosted, along with specifying areas where you don't really need a strong connection.
With those inputs, WiPrint's algorithm is able to calculate the optimised shape for a signal reflector to place beside your Wi-Fi router, which can then be 3D-printed in plastic, and covered in aluminium foil. Read further......

Autoworld: Volkner Mobil Performance S motorhome that comes with all the mod cons - plus its own hydraulic SUPERCAR GARAGE

Autoworld: Volkner Mobil Performance S motorhome that comes with all the mod cons - plus its own hydraulic SUPERCAR GARAGE
This stunning motorhome is perfect for the super wealthy - as it not only comes with all of the mod-cons, but also a supercar garage.
The 40ft Volkner Mobil Performance S features a garage that allows owners to bring their weekend drives along for the, well, ride too.
The Performance S can comfortably house the likes of a Ferrari, Porsche, BMW or Mercedes, which are moved into the behemouth of a vehicle using an electrohydraulic lift. Read further............

This stunning motorhome is perfect for the super wealthy - as it not only comes with all of the mod-cons, but also a supercar garage

The 40ft Volkner Mobil Performance S features a garage that allows owners to bring their weekend drives along for the, well, ride too

 Huge double bedrooms with built in wardrobes and en-suite are on board

The made-to-order machines take around 12 months to build. Pictured is the hi-tech dashboard

Customers can choose from a range of fixtures and fittings to customise their bus - from high-quality leather seats to real wood units and stone tiles in the kitchen and bathroom

Autoworld: Self-driving bus starts first route in Germany

Autoworld: Self-driving bus starts first route in Germany
A bus stop with the autonomous, electric bus
Deutsche Bahn aims to integrate self-driving vehicles into public transport
German railway company Deutsche Bahn has introduced an autonomous bus to drive passengers along a pre-programmed route in Bavaria. In case of an emergency, a human driver can take control with a joystick.
The electric vehicle delivered its first passengers on Wednesday in Bad Birnach, Bavaria, starting on its eight-minute route from the town's hot springs to the central area and the railway station. The EZ10 bus has six places to sit and can take in a further six standing passengers, and the ride is free of charge.
It's the first time a self-driving bus has been incorporated in Germany's public transport system.
Among the first group to ride the self-driving bus was Richard Lutz, the head of the German railway giant Deutsche Bahn (DB), the company behind the pilot project.
"We've just driven, completely autonomously, into a new era of transport," he said in a statement after the first trip. Culled

These People Never Existed. They Were Made by an AI developed by NVIDIA.

These People Never Existed. They Were Made by an AI  developed by NVIDIA.
As part of their expanded applications for artificial intelligence, NVIDIA created a GAN that used CelebA-HQ’s database of photos of famous people to generate images of people who don’t actually exist. The idea was that the AI-created faces would look more realistic if two networks worked against each other to produce them.
First, the generative network would create an image at a lower resolution. Then, the discriminator network would assess the work. As the system progressed, the programmers added new layers dealing with higher-resolution details until the GAN finally generated images of “unprecedented quality,” according to the NVIDIA team’s paper.

Human or Machine?

NVIDIA released a video of their GAN in action, and the AI-created faces are both absolutely remarkable and incredibly eerie. If the average person didn’t know the faces were machine-generated, they could easily believe they belonged to living people.
Indeed, this blurring of the line between the human and the machine-generated is a topic of much discussion within the realm of AI, and NVIDIA’s GAN isn’t the first artificial system to convincingly mimic something human.
A number of AIs use deep learning techniques to produce human-sounding speech. Google’s DeepMind has WaveNet, which can now copy human speech almost perfectly. Meanwhile, startup Lyrebird’s algorithm is able to synthesize a human’s voice using just a minute of audio.
Even more disturbing or fascinating — depending on your perspective on the AI debate — are AI robots that can supposedly understand and express human emotion. Examples of those include Hanson Robotics’ Sophia and SoftBank’s Pepper.
Clearly, an age of smarter machines is upon us, and as the ability to AI to perform tasks previously only human beings could do improves, the line between human and machine will continue to blur. Now, the only question is if it will eventually disappear altogether. Read the Original Article 

Watch As A British uses party balloons to float 15 miles Over South Africa

A man sitting in a camping chair used about 80 helium balloons to fly 15 miles over South Africa. Seated in Camping chair, he floated a distance of 24km (15miles) in 2 hours

Tourism: Singapore becomes most powerful passport in the world

It’s official, Singapore now has the most powerful passport in the world.
With Paraguay removing its visa requirements for Singaporeans, travellers with a Singapore passport can now travel to 159 countries visa-free, says the 2017 Passport Index.
That’s 159 out of a total of 195 countries worldwide. Impressive.
The Passport Index ranks the strength of passports by allocating a “visa-free score” to each country based on the number of countries a passport holder can visit visa-free, or with visa on arrival.
It was developed by Arton Capital, a global financial advisory specialising in investor programmes for residence and citizenship around the world.
According to Arton Capital Singapore’s managing director Mr Philippe May, it is the “first time ever an Asian country has the most powerful passport in the world“, reported the Business Times.
The top ranks had historically been held by European countries, with Germany leading the pack for the last two years.
It is currently ranked second, with a visa-free score of 158.
Yes, it’s a close fight.
Mr May adds that Singapore’s rise is a “testament” of its “inclusive diplomatic relations and effective foreign policy”.
But while Singapore may have been climbing the ranks, possibly due to its strong diplomatic relations and foreign policy, the United States has been struggling since President Donald Trump took office.
Countries like Turkey and the Central African Republic recently revoked their visa-free status to US passport holders.
The United States is currently ranked sixth, with a visa-free score of 154 – on par with Malaysia, Ireland, and Canada.
New Top 10 Passport Power Ranking:
1. 159 – Singapore
2. 158 – Germany
3. 157 – Sweden, South Korea
4. 156 – Denmark, Finland, Italy, France, Spain, Norway, Japan, United Kingdom
5. 155 – Luxemburg, Switzerland, Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, Portugal
6. 154 – Malaysia, Ireland, Canada, United States of America
7. 153 – Australia, Greece, New Zealand
8. 152 – Malta, Czech Republic, Iceland
9. 150 – Hungary
10. 149 – Slovenia, Slovakia, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia

AutoWorld: Baidu Self-Driving Bus to Hit the Road Soon

AutoWorld: Baidu Self-Driving Bus to Hit the Road Soon
Image result for Baidu image

Baidu chief executive Robin Li on Tuesday said the Chinese Internet giant will have a self-driving bus on the road soon as it races for a lead in autonomous vehicles.

Baidu is collaborating with an array of companies on autonomous cars, and is working with a large bus maker in China to have a self-driving bus running a route by next year, Li said in an on-stage interview late Tuesday at The Wall Street Journal D.Live conference in Laguna Beach, California.

Most major automakers and technology titans including Google-parent Alphabet have been stepping up efforts on autonomous driving in recent years, convinced that these systems could eliminate most road accidents. Apple has a testing permit in California.

US-based Tesla boasts that its models are built with the hardware for self-driving in event regulators give the technology a green light.

US chip maker Intel has a partnership with Alphabet's autonomous vehicle unit Waymo, and plans for its own fleet of self-driving cars.

Li said Baidu has a "solid plan" to have its Apollo software platform in fully-autonomous production cars by the year 2021, and in semi-autonomous cars in two years.

Apollo software will provide smarts for navigating cars, with Baidu providing information, entertainment, and other online offerings to passengers, according to Li.

"Our vision is that once a person is in the car, you never need to touch your phone anymore; everything in the car is a better experience," Li said.

Baidu last month announced a $1.5 billion investment in autonomous driving projects over the next three years, as it seeks to diversify its portfolio and compete with rivals.

In July, the company launched an initial version of an autonomous driving platform "Apollo."

While Apollo software is open and free, there are "lots of things" Baidu can do to make money, such as providing car map services, entertainment, or even insurance, according to Li.

- AI under the hood -

Baidu's search engine dominates the Chinese internet, and online ads are a key revenue stream.

But since a crackdown by authorities on Baidu's online advertising business after a much-publicized scandal over promoting a fake medical treatment, "China's Google" is seeking to focus on artificial intelligence and is investing heavily in the sector.

Baidu is pumping 15 percent of its revenue into research, with nearly all of that dedicated to artificial intelligence, Li said.

Software smarts are needed to safely navigate cars with humans at the wheels.

"We have entered a new age, the age of AI," Li said.

- Fighting fake news -

Baidu is also using AI in a fight against being used to spread "fake news."

"Typically, fake news travels faster than real facts," Li said.

"We want to provide the best way for people to find information."

Li acknowledged that Baidu needs "to do a lot more work," but said the company is doing that "using technology and editorial control."

Steps Baidu has taken include extracting main topics from articles and providing readers with related entries from its online encyclopedia for fact-checking, Li said.

Baidu last month teamed up with China's cyber police to control the spread of rumors and fake news.

Baidu said artificial intelligence tools would monitor and identify "rumors" on its services -- search engine, forums and blogs -- on a system linked to registered police agencies around the country.

Suspicious content will be sent to the police for review and to reference organizations, such as state agencies, science academies or media, who will then be able to produce articles refuting the rumors, the official Xinhua news agency said at the time.

"Rumors" are to be labelled as such in search engine results or on forums, accompanied by the articles offering corrections.

Chinese authorities closely monitor cyberspace activities through their "Great Firewall." Websites such as Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest have been blocked for years.