Researchers at the University of Bayreuth in Germany have developed Hexagonal Boron Carbon Nitrogen, a two-dimensional (2D) material that could revolutionize electronics. The researchers say the new material, which features semiconductor properties, could be better suited for high-tech applications than other conventional materials, such as graphene. “Our development can be the starting point for a new generation of electronic transistors, circuits, and sensors that are many times smaller and more flexible than previous electronic elements,” says Bayreuth professor Axel Enders. Although graphene is extremely stable and serves as an excellent conductor of heat and electricity, electrons flow unhindered at any electrical voltage, meaning there are no defined “on” and “off” states. The Bayreuth researchers attempted to solve this problem by replacing individual carbon atoms in the material with boron and nitrogen, in such a way they were able to form a two-dimensional lattice with semiconductor properties.
More info here: University of Bayreuth, Christian Wissler
An exascale supercomputer will likely be realized within the Trump administration’s first term, which could be a tipping point for the U.S. Supercomputing is viewed as essential to national competitiveness because of the increasingly virtual nature of research and product development. Europe has set an exascale delivery schedule of 2022 along with a $749-million commitment, while both China and Japan aim to have a system ready by 2020. China is using its own microchips, while a European system in development uses ARM processors. The Obama administration initially set a 2023-2024 target date for exascale, but amended it in its final weeks to 2021, with a projected budget of $3.1 billion to $5.7 billion. Argonne National Laboratory’s Paul Messina says the U.S. Department of Energy’s Exascale Computing Project “is now a seven-year project, not a 10-year project, but it will cost more.” China currently has the world’s fastest supercomputer, running at about 125 petaflops. Although the U.S. exascale project’s goals include contributing to the country’s economic competitiveness and supporting national security, another objective is developing a software stack, in collaboration with vendors, that smaller systems in industry and academia can utilize.
More info here: Computerworld (01/20/17) Patrick Thibodeau
Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) plans to build a super-efficient supercomputer that could achieve the top ranking in the Top500 supercomputer list by the end of next year. The AI Bridging Cloud Infrastructure is intended for use by startups, existing industrial supercomputing users, and academia. The planned supercomputer would have a processing capacity of 130 petaflops and outperform the current world leader, China’s Sunway TaihuLight, which delivers 93 petaflops. AIST also wants to make its new supercomputer one of the most efficient in the world, aiming for a power consumption of less than 3 megawatts. Japan’s most powerful supercomputer, Oakforest-PACS, currently delivers 13.6 petaflops for the same amount of power. AIST wants its new system to have a power usage effectiveness of less than 1.1, a value attained only by the world’s most efficient data centers. The AIST researchers plan to use liquid cooling to help meet their goals for the new system. Other countries have optimized their top supercomputers for calculations such as atmospheric modeling or nuclear weapon simulations, but AIST is focusing on machine-learning and deep-learning applications in artificial intelligence.
More info here: IDG News Service (11/25/16) Peter Sayer
Computer scientists at Rice University, Argonne National Laboratory, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign say “inexact computing” can dramatically improve the quality of simulations run on supercomputers. Inexact computing focuses on saving energy wherever possibly by paying only for the accuracy that is required in a given situation, says Krishna Palem, director of Rice’s Center for Computing at the Margins. Using the Newton-Raphson tool of numerical analysis, the team demonstrated it is possible to leapfrog from one part of a computation to the next and reinvest the energy saved from inexact computations at each new leap to increase the quality of the final answer while retaining the same energy budget. The researchers showed the solution’s quality could be improved by more than three orders of magnitude for a fixed energy cost when an inexact approach to calculation was applied instead of a traditional high-precision approach. Palem compares their approach to calculating answers as a relay of sprints rather than a marathon. “A specific goal is to encourage the application of this approach as a way to advance the quality of weather and climate modeling by improving model resolution,” he says.
More info here: Rice University (10/20/16) David Ruth; Jade Boyd
A new computer programming educational program called 42 USA, funded by French billionaire Xavier Niel, opened in Silicon Valley last week and enrolled its first 150 students. The program, based at a brand-new 200,000 sq.-ft. facility, offers a free three- to five-year coding curriculum for anyone between the ages of 18 and 30, regardless of their programming experience. However, applicants must pass two rigorous online logic exams to be invited to a month-long, 24-7 orientation during which they must solve a series of increasingly difficult problems. Niel launched the first 42, named after the mysterious number from the book, “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” three years ago in France. 42 USA’s program does not offer any formal courses or retain any professors to instruct students. Instead, enrollees work in groups to complete projects graded by their peers, earning points as they go. Some students are drawn to 42 USA to build real-world experience that could serve them well in landing their first job. One student, Truman State University graduate Nate Engle, says his physics degree proved to be an inadequate job qualifier, and 42 USA’s program offers him a less-burdensome alternative to learning coding by himself.
More info here: U.S. News & World Report (09/22/16) Lauren Camera
Women are making progress in enrollment in engineering and computer science at prestigious U.S. schools. More than 50 percent of engineering bachelor’s degrees at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Dartmouth College went to women in 2015, according to federal data. Women also account for 48 percent of first-year computer science students at Carnegie Mellon University. The federal government and industry leaders concede there should be a greater effort to bring women into science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), and they have promoted programs such as Girls Who Code to foster interest among young girls. However, Harvey Mudd College president Maria Klawe, former president of ACM, cautions the systematic exclusion of women from such fields still exists, and it is mainly more unconscious than conscious. Role models are especially important in fields where there are far fewer female than male professors, and MIT engineering dean Ian Waitz says schools must be vigilant against sex discrimination. Research shows selective private schools, especially the most prominent, are doing a better job than public universities in establishing gender parity in engineering and science. Still, public university officials say they are actively reaching out to high schools to get more girls interested.
More info here: The Washington Post (09/16/16) Nick Anderson
The European Union (EU)-funded SENSEI project accurately anticipated Britain’s Brexit decision based on an analysis of more than 6 million social-media conversations in the weeks leading up to the vote, according to project coordinator Giuseppe Riccardi. “It appears that the momentum on U.K. social media started to change on June 21 [two days before the referendum vote] and we watched it move,” he says. Traditional pollsters predicted a vote to stay in the EU would narrowly prevail. Using a combination of human intervention and machine-reading algorithms, SENSEI estimated the tenor of U.K.-based social-media conversations made a vote too close to call on June 23. However, by late afternoon, an analysis of online dialogues led to a prediction of 48 percent of U.K. voters voting to stay and 52 percent voting to leave, which was precisely reflected in the final referendum outcome. “This is a great result for the project,” says SENSEI’s Hugo Zaragoza. “The ability to listen to millions of pieces of conversations and then analyzing them for sentiment, using a combination of humans and machines, has proved…to be more successful than traditional polling methods.” He says the project offers a highly valuable commercial tool to help political and business commentators understand what is being said online.
More info here: CORDIS News (07/08/16)