Friday, November 21, 2008

News from Los Alamos National Laboratory for Nov. 15–21

Los Alamos computer keeps title as the fastest

A supercomputer at Los Alamos National Laboratory remained the world's fastest, narrowly edging out another massive machine at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, according to a twice-yearly ranking of the 500 largest scientific systems. International Business Machines Corp.'s 188 systems accounted for the most computing power on the so-called Top500 list, and it supplied machines rated first, fourth and fifth. (Read it all now!)

Supercomputers break petaflop barrier, transforming science

A new crop of supercomputers is breaking down the petaflop speed barrier, pushing high-performance computing into a new realm that could change science more profoundly than at any time since Galileo, leading researchers say.

When the Top 500 list of the world's fastest supercomputers was announced at the international supercomputing conference in Austin, Texas, on Monday, IBM had barely managed to cling to the top spot, fending off a challenge from Cray.

But both competitors broke petaflop speeds, performing 1.105 and 1.059 quadrillion floating-point calculations per second, the first two computers to do so. (Get wired in to the whole story here.)

Superconductivity does the twist
Electron fluctuations could explain why exotic material conducts without resistance

Sometimes a twist might be as good as a jiggle. Or at least, a new study suggests, twisting electrons appear to take the place of jiggling ions in an exotic kind of superconductor.

It's the first experiment to show that a certain kind of twisting fluctuations among the electrons in the material could explain its superconductivity, scientists report in the Nov. 20 Nature.

The research also supports a 20-year-old theory about how such twists in the spin axes of electrons in general could enable superconductivity for some materials. (Here's the full twist!)

Iran said to have nuclear fuel for one weapon

Iran has now produced roughly enough nuclear material to make, with added purification, a single atom bomb, according to nuclear experts analyzing the latest report from global atomic inspectors.

Siegfried S. Hecker of Stanford University and a former director of the Los Alamos weapons laboratory said the growing size of the Iranian stockpile "underscored that they are marching down the path to developing the nuclear weapons option." (Read about it here!)

Stephen Fry in America: dark matter & quantum computers

The BBC television series visits Los Alamos: "Well, this is just another old Santa Fe courtyard stuffed with colorful knick-knacks for the tourist trade -- you might think -- but actually, this was once the most secret address in the world. It was simply a post-office box, 1663, and it was the only conduit to a rather special place in the mountains. . . ."

Wallace discusses LANL's growing mission

inding solutions to the nation's energy dilemmas, including the means to store energy, is at the fore front of research underway at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL): Research critical to both the nation and the world. (Read the full story.)

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