A quick glance at the new ranking of top supercomputers gives a surprising showing by one of the world’s technological powerhouses. Taiwan does not possess a single machine powerful enough to make the Top500.org list. While there are many nations that don’t make the list, Taiwan is peculiar in that it has such an outsized grip on the computer chip industry. What’s more, its political rival, China, not only holds the world’s top machine, it now has more ranking supercomputers than any nation except the United States.
It has been a long decline. Taiwan’s most powerful machine supercomputer, the Advanced Large-scale Parallel Supercluster also known as ALPS or Windrider, ranked 42nd in June, 2011, shortly after its launch.
But the process of upgrading Taiwan’s supercomputing infrastructure has been slowed by ineffective government budget allocation. Since 2013, the National Center for High-performance Computing (NCHC), which operates Windrider, has failed twice to get its budget boosted enough to strengthen its supercomputing ability. While other countries poured money into the installation of powerful supercomputers as a way to show national power, Windrider fell to 305th then 445th in June 2014 and
Is Bitcoin destined to become the Facebook of money, or the Second Life? That is, will Bitcoin become universal, a medium of exchange used by just about everyone, or will it remain a curiosity, a tool used only by a dedicated fringe (in Bitcoin’s case, criminals and privacy extremists)? As a mere language columnist, I haven’t the foggiest, but I can tell you that, no matter what its fate, Bitcoin is generating new words and phrases at an inflationary rate. Is this profusion of new terms undermining (that’s a pun, as you’ll see) Bitcoin’s quest for universality?
The confusion begins at the beginning, with the simple act of categorization: What is Bitcoin, exactly? The person known as Satoshi Nakamoto, who invented Bitcoin back in 2008, called it electronic cash. Other terms in use are cryptocurrency, virtual currency, digital currency, digital cash, and math-based currency. (This last term reminds me of something the entrepreneur Chris Dixon posted to his Tumblr in 2013: “Three eras of currency: Commodity based, e.g. Gold; Politically based, e.g. Dollar; Math based, e.g. Bitcoin.”) Others are calling it MoIP (Money over Internet Protocol), a play on VoIP (Voice over Internet
Things are getting a bit too hot in the microprocessor world. Again.
Moore’s Law has always come with the caveat that more transistors, switched at a higher frequency, means more heat. Over the years, chipmakers have used tricks like throttling back clock speeds and putting multiple microprocessor cores on a chip to spread out the heat.
But heat continues to stifle chip performance. Hot spots on today’s processors can reach power densities of 1 kilowatt per square centimeter, much higher than the heat inside a rocket nozzle. A growing fraction of transistors on advanced microprocessors are not even operated at any one time because they would generate too much heat, says Avram Bar-Cohen, a program manager at the microsystems technology office of DARPA. “As we put more and more transistors on them, this ‘dark silicon’ fraction has gone from 10 to 20 percent, in some cases more,” he says.
There’s only so much that processor designers can do to keep chips from generating too much heat, and it’s time for some new ways to get that heat out.
The conventional approach to dissipating the heat is to attach
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