SciTech Briefs

Credit: Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons Credit: Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons This simulated image shows the energy bubbles on the top and bottom of the Milky Way galaxy. The bubbles both extend 25,000 light years outward. (credit: Courtesy of NASA) This simulated image shows the energy bubbles on the top and bottom of the Milky Way galaxy. The bubbles both extend 25,000 light years outward. (credit: Courtesy of NASA)

Supercomputers may shrink to size of sugar cubes

IBM scientists have reported that new developments in supercomputer processors could allow supercomputers to be made the size of sugar cubes. This would allow the energy consumption for the computers to decrease, a major goal for scientists who feel that supercomputers will soon be evaluated by energy consumption rather than speed. The cost of computer parts has decreased to the point that electrical consumption cost, which is mainly from cooling the computer, will dominate the cost of computing hardware.

The computer design involves stacks of computer processors with cooling water flowing between each stack. A prototype called Aquasar has been built that is already 50 percent more efficient than the leading supercomputers, but is the size of a large refrigerator. Scientists are using water because it can remove 4,000 times more waste heat than a system that cools using air. One main problem is reducing the size of the cooling equipment needed — a possible solution takes ideas from the human body by branching the water lines, similar to the body’s circulatory system. Another problem is making the circuitry waterproof.

Scientists predict that a sugar cube-sized supercomputer may be working in 10 to 15 years.

Source: BBC

Iron Man suit being developed

Raytheon Sarcos, a defense contractor in Salt Lake City, recently showcased the XOS-2 exoskeleton, a kind of metal suit that allows the wearer to perform feats of strength. Rex Jameson, Sarcos’ test engineer, demonstrated the suit. Since the suit follows the user’s movements, it was able to imitate Jameson as he shadowboxed, and it increased Jameson’s strength by 17 times.

The suit is powered by an external hydraulic power source, and it activates by a user stepping into its boots, reminiscent of a real-life Iron Man. The suit supports its own weight and responds to forces exerted by the user’s feet, plus actuators that control the hands.
The suit is designed for use by the U.S. military for tasks such as carrying heavy boxes of ammunition and other military supplies, up to 16,000 pounds a day. It was reported that one person wearing a suit could replace up to three soldiers. However, current battery technology prevents the suit from working without an external energy source, and malfunctions can be dangerous.

Source: CNN

Energy bubbles observed in space

Scientists at NASA’s Fermi Gamma Ray Space Telescope have discovered two bubbles of energy with diameters of 25,000 light years. The energy contained within the bubbles is equivalent to 100,000 supernova explosions, a truly astronomical amount. The bubbles extend outward above and below the center of the Milky Way galaxy. However, the researchers do not yet know what caused the bubbles to form. Some postulate that star births and star deaths promoted their formation. Another possibility is that a black hole at the center of the galaxy released the energy. Regardless of the cause, scientists are confounded by why the bubbles had not been suspected earlier, given their size.

Initial discoveries of high-energy haze of particles led to the discovery of the bubbles. The haze was thought to be composed of concentrated dark matter around the center of the galaxy, but it was then discovered that the high-energy particle haze had distinct boundaries, just like bubbles. The current understanding of dark matter shows that it does not confine itself within boundaries, so scientists are working to understand more about the energy bubbles.

Source: The New York Times