Japan builds world’s most powerful supercomputer

A Japanese computer has taken first place on the Top 500 supercomputer list, ending China’s reign at the top after just six months. At 8.16 petaflops, the K computer is more powerful than the next five systems combined.

The K computer’s performance was measured using 68,544 SPARC64 VIIIfx CPUs each with eight cores, for a total of 548,352 cores, almost twice as many as any other system on the Top500 list. The computer is still under construction, and when it enters service in November 2012 will have more than 80,000 SPARC64 VIIIfx CPUs according to its manufacturer, Fujitsu.

Japan’s ascension to the top means that the Chinese Tianhe-1A supercomputer, which took the number 1 position in November last year, is now in second spot with its 2.57 petaflops. But China continues to grow the number of systems it has on the list, up from 42 to 62 systems. The change at the top also means that Jaguar, built for the US Department of Energy (DOE), is bumped down to third place.

The latest iteration of the bi-annual list was released Monday at the 2011 International Supercomputing Conference.

Unlike other recent supercomputers, the K computer doesn’t use graphics processors or other accelerators. It uses the most power, but is also one of the most energy efficient systems on the list, according to Top500.org. The supercomputer is installed at the RIKEN Advanced Institute for Computational Science (AICS) in Kobe. When complete, it is intended to run at over 10 petaflops.

This is the first time Japan has had the most powerful supercomputer since the country’s Earth Simulator was surpassed by the DOE’s IBM BlueGene/L and by Nasa’s Columbia in November 2004.

For the first time, all of the top 10 systems achieved performance over 1 petaflop, although they are the only systems on the list that reach that level. The US has five systems in the top 10, Japan and China have two each and France has one.

The DOE’s Roadrunner, the first system to break the petaflop barrier in June 2008, is now in tenth place. The performance of computers on the list is measured using the Linpack benchmark, a set of routines that solve linear equations.

The last system on the new list was at position 262 six months ago, meaning almost 48 percent of the list has changed in the last six months, and the turnover rate has steadily increased during the last few lists, according to Top500.org which publishes the list. While performance at the top is advancing by leaps and bounds, movements lower down the list are more modest. The entry point for the top 100 increased to 88.92 teraflops from 75.76 teraflops six months ago.

IBM is the dominant manufacturer on the list with 213 systems in the Top 500, compared to HP with 153.

Intel continues to provide the processors for a majority of the systems on list, followed by AMD and IBM. Intel’s Westmere processors are now used by 178 systems, up from 56 systems 6 months ago.

The Top 500 list is compiled by Hans Meuer of the University of Mannheim, Erich Strohmaier and Horst Simon of NERSC/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Jack Dongarra of the University of Tennessee.


Apple’s iOS 4 hardware encryption has been “officially ” cracked ..

Apple’s iOS 4 hardware encryption has been cracked

Russian company ElcomSoft is claiming to have cracked the 256-bit hardware encryption Apple uses to protect the data on iOS 4 devices, and is offering software that allows anyone to do it.

ElcomSoft is well-known as a corporate security and IT audit company, working with law enforcement agencies, the military, and intelligence agencies to recover data and perform forensics on devices. Its latest work has managed to open up the data stored on any device running iOS 4 by circumventing the hardware encryption chip Apple uses.

Rather than relying on a hardware dump from such a device, which will be encrypted amd may be missing some of the important data a forensic investigation needs, ElcomSoft can now gain full access to what is stored on a gadget such as the iPhone 4. This includes historical information such as geolocation data, browsing history, call history, text messages and emails, usernames, and passwords. They can even recover data deleted by the user from the device.

Until now, anyone running an iOS 4 device has been safe in the knowledge their data was protected and the encryption too strong to be cracked in any usable timeframe. What ElcomSoft did was to create a toolkit that allows for the extraction of the encryption keys from such a device. With those keys it’s possible to decrypt an image taken from an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch. Once that is done a forensic tool such as FTK or Guidance EnCase can be used to look at the data in great detail.

Gaining access to the stored data on the device does not take long due to the ElcomSoft tools taking full advantage of the GPU or multiple GPUs in a system. However, you need access to the device in order to decrypt the data, not just an encrypted image from a device. This is because ElcomSoft brute-force the passcode which has to be done on the device, and with something like an iPhone 4 that takes around 40 minutes to achieve.

ElcomSoft offer this iOS 4 forensic toolkit to security and law enforcement agencies, but anyone can purchase the software to extract the encrypted data on a device. The application is called the ElcomSoft Phone Password Breaker and costs around $320 for the Professional edition. The speed of decryption on a home PC depends on your setup with Password Breaker supporting up to 32 CPUs and 8 GPUs.

Katrina vs Iowa Flood

After Katrina, the media blamed the lack of response on the Bush administration’s dislike of black people.

Can we then conclude from the lack of media coverage and response by the Obama administration that Obama doesn’t like white folks?

See Below:
Where are the Hollywood celebrities holding telethons asking for help in restoring Iowa and North Dakota and helping the folks affected by the floods? Where is good old Michael Moore?

Why are the media NOT asking the tough questions about why the federal government hasn’t solved this problem? Where are the FEMA trucks, trailers and food services?

Why isn’t the Federal government moving Iowa people into free hotels in Chicago and Minneapolis?

When will Spike Lee say that the Federal government blew up the levees that failed in Des Moines?

Where are Sean Penn, Bono, and the Dixie Chicks?

Where are all the looters stealing high-end tennis shoes, cases of beer and television sets?

When will we hear Governor Chet Culver say that he wants to rebuild a ‘vanilla’ Iowa…because that’s what God wants?

Where is the hysterical 24/7 media coverage complete with reports of shootings at rescuers, of rapes and murder?

Where are all the people screaming that Barack Obama hates white, rural people? My God, where are Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, Oprah, and Ray Coniff Jr?

How come you will never hear about the Iowa flooding ever again? Where are the gov’t. bail out vouchers? The government debit cards?

There must be one hell of a big difference between the value of the people of Iowa and value of the people ofLouisiana.




Can humans regrow fingers?

finger with band-aid
John Foxx/Getty Images
Can you regrow your fingers?

When a hobby-store owner in Cincinnati sliced off his fingertip in 2005 while showing a customer why the motor on his model plane was dangerous, he went to the emergency room without the missing tip. He couldn’t find it anywhere. The doctor bandaged the wound and recommended a skin graft to cover the top of his right-middle stub for cosmetic purposes, since nothing could be done to rebuild the finger.

Months later, he had regrown it, tissue, nerves, skin, fingernail and all.

This particular hobbyist happened to have a brother in the tissue-regeneration business, who told him to forego the skin graft and instead apply a powdered extract taken from pig’s bladder to the raw finger tip. The extract, called extracellular matrix, lays the framework that cells use to generate any given body part. It’s like a cellular scaffolding, and all animals have it. It holds the signals that direct cells to divide, differentiate and build themselves into a specific form.

Extracellular matrix is a component of body tissue that functions outside of the body’s cells (thus the “extracellular” designation). It’s made up mostly of collagen, a type of protein. So extracellular matrix extracted from the bladder of a pig does not actually have any of the pig’s cells in it.

In human fetuses, the substance works in concert with stem cells to grow and regrow everything from heart aortas to toes. Fetuses can regrow almost anything that gets damaged while in the womb. Scientists have long believed that when a fetus reaches full development, this extracellular matrix stops functioning. But with evidence that applying extracellular matrix from a pig can initiate certain types of regeneration in humans, they’re wondering if they can trigger human extracellular matrix to start working again. After all, according to regeneration researcher Dr. Stephen Badylak of the University of Pittsburgh, children up to the age of two have been known to regrow fingertips with no outside help.

Pig-extracted extracellular matrix is already used by veterinarians to help horses repair torn ligaments. In people, it’s used to treat ulcers, closing a hole in the tissue that lines the stomach. It employs an entirely different process than the typical mammalian healing mechanism. Let’s take the case of a person who loses the tip of a finger. When the finger is severed, the cells die, and their contents seep into the surrounding tissue. This alerts the immune system to a problem. The immune system’s response to cell death is inflammation and scar tissue. The formation of scar tissue prevents any future cellular development in the area. That’s why scars last — cells are prevented from doing a repair job on that skin.

But when extracellular matrix is applied to a wound, it doesn’t trigger an immune response. Instead, when it begins to break down into surrounding tissue, it causes the cells in that tissue to start repairing the damage the way they would in a developing fetus (or a salamander that loses a limb) — they divide and rebuild, creating new, normal tissue, not scar tissue.

Combined with developments in stem-cell research, this extracellular matrix may work miracles in the area of regeneration science. As of early 2007, testing of the effects of extracellular matrix is being carried out on a military base in Texas. Scientists are using the powdered pig extract on Iraq War veterans whose hands were damaged in the war. They’re opening the wounds and applying the component to finger stubs in an attempt to regrow them. The researchers conducting the study say they don’t expect to regrow the entire finger, but are hoping to regrow enough of a finger to allow for some utility. They don’t believe it will regenerate bone, but nothing is for sure right now. That man in Cincinnati had only lost his finger tip, at the lower part of the nail; he hadn’t lost the entire finger.

Help from pigs aside, many wonder if the extracellular matrix in humans is unable to function or is simply in a latent state, awaiting some sort of trigger. Do humans in fact have the same regenerative capacity as salamanders, which can regrow an entire limb, and researchers just haven’t found a way to activate the mechanism? It’s not just amphibians that can regrow body parts: Deer regularly regrow lost antlers, composed of bone, tissue, cartilage and skin — the same things that make up human limbs. Could there possibly be an internal switch that would reactivate the regeneration capacity that humans possess in the womb? Regenerative medicine is actively pursuing answers to these questions. And in the meantime, if applying powdered pig extract to a snipped finger can in fact facilitate regrowth, the possibilities for medicine are startling. Spinal injuries, amputated limbs and damaged organs could all be coaxed back into a complete, healthy state if science finds the right combination of treatments.

Bin Laden’s luxury hideout

Osama bin Laden made his final stand in a small Pakistani city where three army regiments with thousands of soldiers are based not far from the capital – a location that is increasing suspicions in Washington that Islamabad may have been sheltering him.

The U.S. acted alone in Monday’s helicopter raid, did not inform Pakistan until it was over and pointedly did not thank Pakistan at the end of a wildly successful operation. All this suggests more strain ahead in a relationship that was already suffering because of U.S. accusations that the Pakistanis are supporting Afghan militants and Pakistani anger over American drone attacks and spy activity.

Pakistani intelligence agencies are normally very sharp in sniffing out the presence of foreigners in small cities.

For years, Western intelligence had said bin Laden was most likely holed up in a cave along the Pakistan-Afghan border, a remote region of soaring mountains and thick forests where the Pakistan army has little presence. But the 10-year hunt for the world’s most-wanted man ended in a whitewashed, three-story house in a middle-class area of Abbottabad, a leafy resort city of 400,000 people nestled in pine-forested hills less than 35 miles from the national capital, Islamabad.

Sen. Carl Levin, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said bin Laden’s location meant Pakistan had “a lot of explaining to do.”

“I think this tells us once again that unfortunately Pakistan at times is playing a double game,” said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, a member of the Armed Services Committee.

A senior Pakistan intelligence official dismissed speculation that bin Laden was being protected.

“We don’t explain it. We just did not know – period,” he said, on condition his name not be released to the media.

Extra security forces swarmed the city on Monday, adding to Abbottabad’s already massive military presence. Heavily armed trucks rumbled through, and police shooed children away from around the fortress-like compound.

Associated Press reporters saw the wreckage of one of the American helicopters that malfunctioned and had to be destroyed during the operation. Residents described the sounds of bullets, the clatter of chopper blades and two large explosions as the raid went down.

Hours after the operation, a soldier armed with a gun could be seen walking on the compound’s roof, as tense crowds of onlookers suddenly swelled in the narrow street leading away from the site.

It was unclear how long bin Laden had been holed up in the house with members of his family. From the outside, the house resembled many others in Pakistan and even had a flag flying from a pole in the garden, apparently a Pakistani one. It had high, barbed-wire topped walls, few windows and was located in a neighborhood of smaller houses, shops, dusty litter-lined streets and empty plots used for growing vegetables.

Neighbors said large Landcruisers and other expensive cars were seen driving into the compound, but they had no indication that foreigners were living inside. Salman Riaz, a film actor, said that five months ago he and a crew tried to do some filming next to the house, but were told to stop by two men who came out.

“They told me that this is haram (forbidden in Islam),” he said.

A video aired by ABC News that purported to show the inside of the compound included footage of disheveled bedrooms with floors stained with large pools of blood and littered with clothes and paper. It also showed a dirt road outside the compound with large white walls on one side and a green agricultural field on the other.

After nightfall on Monday, a single light shone from inside the compound.

Some residents were alarmed. “We’re very concerned for this town. It was a very safe place. Now there could be al-Qaida everywhere,” said Naeem Munir.

The compound, which an Obama administration official said was “custom built to hide someone of significance,” was about a half-mile (one kilometer) away from the Kakul Military Academy, one of several military installations in the bustling, hill-ringed town.

“Personally I feel that he must have thought it was the safest area,” said Asad Munir, a former station chief of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency, or ISI, in the northwest. “Abbottabad is a place no one would expect him to live.”

Suspicions that Pakistan harbors militants have been a major source of mistrust between the CIA and Pakistan’s ISI, though the two agencies have cooperated in the arrests of al-Qaida leaders since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, including several in towns and cities outside the border area.

“Why had Pakistan not spotted he is living in a nice tourist resort just outside Islamabad?” asked Gareth Price, a researcher at Chatham House think-tank in London. “It seems he was being protected by Pakistan. If that is the case, this will be hard for the two sides to carry on working together. Unless Pakistan can explain why they didn’t know, it makes relations difficult.”

Relations between Pakistan’s main intelligence agency and the CIA had been very strained in recent months after a CIA contractor shot and killed two Pakistanis in January, bringing Pakistani grievances out into the open. Since then, a Pakistani official has said that joint operations had been stopped, and that the agency was demanding the Americans cut down on drone strikes in the border area.

The U.S. has fired hundreds of drones into the border regions since 2008, taking out senior al-Qaida leaders in a tactic seen by many in Washington as vital to keeping the militant network and allied groups living in safe havens on the back foot.

While tensions may run high, it is unlikely that either nation could afford to sever the link completely. Pakistan has nuclear weapons, and the U.S. needs Islamabad to begin its withdrawal from Afghanistan this year as planned. Pakistan relies heavily on the United States for military and civilian aid.

Some of the strongest allegations about ISI involvement in sheltering bin Laden were made in Afghanistan, where President Hamid Karzai has repeatedly said that more of the American focus should be across the border in Pakistan.

“For years we have said that the fight against terrorism is not in Afghan villages and houses,” said Karzai. “It is in safe havens, and today that was shown to be true.”

There was no evidence of direct ISI collusion, and American officials did not make any such allegations.

“There are a lot of people within the Pakistan government, and I am not going to speculate about who, or if any of them had foreknowledge about bin Laden being in Abbottabad but certainly its location there outside of the capital raises questions,” said White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan.

Some analysts suggested that Pakistan would have little interest in sheltering bin Laden. They contrasted the al-Qaida leader with Afghan Taliban leaders, whom Pakistan views as useful allies in Afghanistan once America withdraws. Al-Qaida has carried out scores of attacks inside Pakistan in recent years.

Last month, Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the U.S. joint chiefs of staff, accused Pakistan’s military-run spy service of maintaining links with the Haqqani network, a major Afghan Taliban faction.

Hours later, a Pakistani army statement rejected what it called “negative propaganda” by the United States, while army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani said his troops’ multiple offensives against insurgent groups in the northwest are evidence of Pakistan’s resolve to defeat terrorism.

Kayani also told graduating cadets at the Kakul academy that their force had “broken the backbone” of the militants.

But Pakistan’s government and army are very sensitive to concerns that they are working under the orders of America and allowing U.S. forces to operate here. One Islamist party staged a protest against bin Laden’s killing, but there was no sign of a major reaction on the Pakistani street.

“Down with America! Down with Obama!” shouted more than 100 people in the southwestern city of Quetta. “Jihad, jihad the only treatment for America!”

The Pakistani Taliban, an al-Qaida-allied group behind scores of bloody attacks in Pakistan and the failed bombing in New York’s Times Square, vowed revenge.

“Let me make it very clear that we will avenge the martyrdom of Osama bin Laden, and we will do it by carrying out attacks in Pakistan and America,” Taliban spokesman Ahsanullah Ahsan told The Associated Press by phone. “We will teach them an exemplary lesson.”

The U.S. closed its embassy in Islamabad and its consulates in the cities of Lahore, Karachi and Peshawar on Monday for fear of unrest.

Many Pakistanis doubted the U.S. account of the raid, with some refusing to believe that bin Laden was dead.

“It is not possible. Like other incidents, I think this is faked,” said Mohammad Bashir, a 45-year-old cab driver in Abbottabad. “It seems that in the coming days, suddenly Osama will come out with a statement.”

E-fabric spools bring bullet-proof watches, paper-thin batteries

E-fabric, etched and layered with microscopic electronics, coud bring bullet-proof watches on every soldier’s wrist and a light in every African hut.

John Maltabes, a Hewlett-Packard research engineer, is reflected in a sample sheet of thin, flexible electronic displays.

Tony Avelar/The Christian Science Monitor

Computer chips are arguably the most complex objects ever built by humans. Manufacturing a Pentium chip involves up to 5,000 steps of painting, etching, and polishing as up to 25 layers of metal and insulator are stacked onto a silicon wafer.

But John Maltabes, a visiting scholar at Hewlett-Packard (HP) Laboratories in Palo Alto, Calif., imagines a different future, one in which electronics are mass-produced like fabrics or newspapers.

Imagine a yard-wide sheet of plastic coated in thin layers of metal and semiconductor rolling off a spool in a factory. That sheet passes under a printing press like a rolling pin, which imprints millions of transistors, capacitors, diodes, and wires onto it. The sheet then scrolls through an etcher to complete the printing process. The sheet would wind onto another spool as a finished product: perhaps a sheet of solar cells that could be unrolled and cut to size on a roof, or a flexible television display that could unwind like a blind in a living room.

Mr. Maltabes is working on these so-called “roll-to-roll” methods for making flexible, paper-thin computer displays. But he believes that the cheaper manufacturing and more flexible, durable products could fundamentally change the economic equation of what is affordable to do with electronics in general.

“There are devices that we can’t even imagine now,” says Maltabes. “You could ‘sensor’ the world. Think about wrapping the pipes in your house with some kind of material that actually senses the temperature of your pipes. They tell you the pipes are about to freeze and warm them so they don’t freeze.”

Or smart bandages that sense inflammation in a wound and release medications. Or lighted wallpaper, purchased by the roll at Home Depot, that changes color and hue with the turn of a knob.

One gadget being created with US military funds is the so-called Dick Tracy wristwatch: This flexible band, strapped on a soldier’s wrist, would provide communication, satellite images, and Google Earth-style maps. “You should be able to shoot a bullet through it and have everything work except for the place where there was a hole,” says Maltabes, of the device, under development at Arizona State University’s Flexible Display Center.

Roll-to-roll manufacturing could also lower the cost of making batteries. Yi Cui, a nanotechnologist at Stanford University, in California, is printing experimental batteries on paper and cloth using inks that contain carbon nanotubes and lithium-containing dust.

The technology potentially overcomes a major problem: Engineers would like to store electricity produced by solar and wind farms during the day, so it can be used at night – but the cost of today’s lithium batteries renders this out of reach.

“The scale of the problem does not match,” says Dr. Cui. “You put together all of the lithium batteries we’ve made for the last 20 years to power the US electrical grid and you can probably only power it for five to seven minutes.” Cui hopes, though, that printed batteries can be expanded to that massive scale.

Roll-to-roll could propel another green technology – printed solar cells – into widespread use in developing countries, enhancing the decentralized, off-grid economies that are already emerging. In areas without electricity, small propane or solar-powered generators are already used to recharge cellphones – or sometimes even small LED lights, says Sandeep Tiwari, a nanotechnologist at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., who devotes some of his time to developing-world technologies.

“Every hut has this light that is then used by children to study at night,” says Mr. Tiwari of one village in northern India. “Lighting has made a huge difference.”