Sci/Tech briefs

Supercomputer helps scientists

A supercomputer that is capable of answering challenging questions about supernovas, climate change, and the arrangement of water molecules was built recently and is located at the National Center for Computational Sciences in Tennessee. The computer, called Jaguar, is the most powerful and fastest computer ever dedicated to science.

The number of mathematical operations a computer can perform per second or the peak operating performance, of Jaguar is 1.64 petaflops, that is around a million billion mathematical operations per second.

As compared to just one or two processing cores found in desktop machines, Jaguar has 181,000 processing cores.

Source: New Scientist

Arctic ice caps prone to melting this year

With the onset of spring, the melting of the ice caps in the Arctic Ocean has also begun. Data predict that the ice caps are more vulnerable than ever this time. Measurements made by satellites suggest that the ocean area covered by ice this year is one of the lowest ever.

Also, a high fraction of that area is capped by first-year, thin ice, which is more prone to melting than thick, old ice.
Multi-year ice’s thickness is greater than three meters, but first-year ice is only two meters thick.

Walt Meier, a remote sensing analyst at the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colo., stated that although the ice extent has recovered slightly in the past year, the average thickness is quite low.

Source: Science News

Study finds galaxies to be young

Contrary to the popular belief that galaxies started their evolution after the Big Bang around 13 billion years ago, a study conducted by a team led by an Indiana University astronomer has found that some massive galaxies, such as the Milky Way, actually formed only recently.

This prediction was made because it was found that these massive galaxies have chemical abundances that indicate very little evolution.
The heavy metals that indicate the age of a galaxy were found in relatively low abundance in these galaxies.

This means that the galaxies may have formed recently and are cosmologically young.
The study predicts that the galaxies may have formed only 3–4 billion years ago.

Source: Science Daily

New craft harnesses wind power

A British man named Richard Jenkins claimed the world land sailing speed record when he drove his vehicle, Greenbird, to 126 m.p.h. on the dry Lake Ivanpah near the border of Nevada and California.

Greenbird is described as having elements of an airplane, a sailboat, and a Formula One car. It is a carbon fiber composite craft and harnesses wind power.
The vehicle has a mass of 600 kilograms and can travel at a speed four to five times greater than wind speed.
As a result of the high speed, the downward force of the wings can increase its weight to a ton.
The wing bearings and the wheel are the only parts of the structure that are made out of metal.