Thought for the month

“You know," said Arthur, "it's at times like this, when I'm trapped in a Vogon airlock with a man from Betelgeuse, and about to die of asphyxiation in deep space that I really wish I'd listened to what my mother told me when I was young." "Why, what did she tell you?" "I don't know, I didn't listen.” From The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams, Author (1952-2001)

Thursday, 14 July 2011

91.4 Tesla and 8.126 petaflops

There must be something in the air in Germany. The last two weeks have seen some big numbers in science and engineering. In Dresden the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf has set a new world record for magnetic fields with 91.4 Tesla. The team at the High Magnetic Field Laboratory Dresden (HLD) made a coil weighing about 200 kilograms in which an electric current can create the giant magnetic field for a period of a few milliseconds. The coil survives the short period and intense Lorentz forces, through being made of a cooper alloy and being held in place using a plastic fibre corset. Whilst 500km up the road in Hamburg, a Japanese supercomputer was becoming the fastest in the world. The K Computer achieved a mere 8.162 quadrillion calculations per second, or 8.162 petaflops (ten to the power fifteen, flops = floating point operations per second). But can it cope with Windows and IE9?

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