- It's Memorial Day here in the U.S., the day set aside to
who sacrificed themselves to protect our freedom. Although the official
purpose of Memorial Day is to remember those who gave their lives in
the service of our country, let's also remember all of those brave men
and women, living and dead, who through the years have put their lives
on the line to protect all of us. As we have our cookouts and family
get-togethers today, let's all take a moment to think about our troops
in Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere, who can't be with their
families. And let's have a thought, not just today but every day of the
year, for them and the sacrifices they are making and have made.
It's easy to forget that our service members aren't the only ones
making sacrifices to protect us. Those lines in the casualty
reports also represent profound losses for their wives and
husbands, their mothers and fathers, their brothers and sisters, and,
most of all, their children.
- Jasmine's best friend, Ethan Smith, was killed
Sunday in a car accident.
Barbara and I haven't seen Jas since it happened, but her grandmother
says she was and is devastated. Mary said it wasn't a
boyfriend/girlfriend thing between them. They were more like brother
and sister, hanging out together and teasing each other constantly.
Jasmine must be stunned, particularly because she saw him not long
before he was killed.
This is the second close friend that Jas
has lost in similar circumstances. A couple of years ago, the boy who
lives on the street behind us and one house over was killed in a car
accident. He was three years or so older than Jas, which is a lot at
that age. A 17-year-old boy usually has better things to do than hang
out with 14-year olds, but this boy treated the younger kids like
brothers and sisters, driving groups of them to the mall and so on. I
asked Jas at the time if she'd been close to him, and her reply
confused me momentarily. She said, "He was my big brother." And now
she's lost another one.
Still working hard on the book. I should complete the initial passes on
the six project chapters in the next few days. I'll post those to the
Subscriber page once I have them in reasonably good shape.
also ordering some of the stuff that I need to put together the first
batch of 100 microchemistry kits. I won't be ready to ship kits in time
for the start of school this autumn, but I'm pushing ahead for
next year. My cup runneth over with UPS deliveries. Friday, UPS showed
up with a case of 10 mL oral syringes with caps (for gas chemistry
experiments). Tuesday, UPS showed up with a large box of chemicals from
Elemental Scientific. And today UPS will show up with the six cases I
need to complete the component list for the six project systems in the
I will be even busier than usual for quite a while.
After years of waiting for the chance, Malcolm finally got to savagely
attack the UPS guy yesterday. The poor UPS guy almost got a hernia
hauling the stuff up to the front door. Six Antec cases plus a box of
miscellaneous stuff I'd ordered from NewEgg. He was walking back and
forth from his truck to the front porch, setting boxes on the porch as
I carried them into the house. On the last trip, he offered to carry
the largest box into the foyer. He then bent down and reached toward
Malcolm, who came charging over and viciously licked his hand. Malcolm
then did his usual jump in order to get in a quick face slurp as well.
weekend we'll get all the cases unpacked and sorted out. We also need
to shoot a dummy cover image that O'Reilly's marketing folks need to
put together marketing promotion materials for the salesforce to use to
pre-sell the book. If we have time, we'll also at least get started on
the first build. That'll probably be the appliance system, which is an
Intel D510MO Atom motherboard with 2 GB of Crucial memory and a 640 GB
Seagate notebook hard drive in an Antec ISK300-65 case.
It looks to me as though anyone who wants to can build an affordable
desktop supercomputer. The other night, I looked at the BBC article
about the June
2010 Top 500 Supercomputers.
The first thing I noticed, of course, is that nearly all of them run
Linux, with most of the remainder running AIX or Open Solaris. The next
thing I noticed was their LINPACK benchmarks. The slowest of the top
500 is about 24 petaFLOPS.
So I ran LINPACK on my den system, an
old Core2 Duo. It scored just under one gigaFLOPS, so the current #500
supercomputer on the planet is only about 25,000 times faster than my
old den system. That got me to wondering about the new Extreme System
we'll be building, which uses an Intel Core i7-980X processor. That
processor benchmarks at just over 100 gigaFLOPS in double-precision
mode, which means the world's #500 top supercomputer is only about 250
times faster than the main CPU in the new Extreme System.
as the old commercial used to say, wait, there's more! General-purpose
processors are really rotten at floating-point operations. That's why
serious gamers buy high-end video adapters, which are optimized for
floating-point ops. The fastest GPU on the planet is the ATi RADEON HD
5970, which reaches nearly 5 teraFLOPS in single-precision
floating-point ops. Unfortunately, like all GPUs, it's much less
efficient in double-precision floating-point ops, where it turns in
benchmarks just under 1 teraFLOPS.
Of course, we're not limited
to just one RADEON HD 5970. Installing two of them in a CrossFireX
motherboard takes us up to nearly 2 teraFLOPS, and installing four
would take us to nearly 4 teraFLOPS. Even allowing for scaling
inefficiencies, that system should have potential performance of around
10% of the #500 supercomputer on the planet. That, to my
mind, definitely qualifies as a desktop supercomputer. As to
"affordable", definitions obviously vary. Those video cards cost $700
each, and you'd need an expensive motherboard and a very expensive
1000W or higher power supply. You'd probably also want to install
liquid cooling, particularly for the video adapters. Still, all told,
for a few grand you end up with a real supercomputer. And, in not all
that many years, this level of performance will be the norm for a
Of course, by then the world's fastest
supercomputers will be much faster than today's. But at some point,
absolute speed begins to become more important than relative speed. So
what if in ten years a $1,000 desktop system no longer places in the
world's Top Million Supercomputers? It's still extremely fast in
absolute terms, and able to do all of the things that today's top
supercomputers are doing now. I think this has profound implications in
many respects, but particularly for science, and more particularly for
endeavors like total organic syntheses and designing synthetic
lifeforms. It's going to be an interesting decade.
I'd intended to write something about this myself, but Pat Condell says it all.
generation can take credit for this, I think. My parents' generation
were not all racists by any means; certainly my parents were not, nor
my mother's mother, although my father's mother was. And yet, when I
dated a black girl I don't doubt my parents were concerned, not
because she was black but because young married couples have enough
pressures on them without having to deal with the then-prevailing taboo
on racially-mixed marriages. Had I married one of those girls, I don't
doubt that some family members, on both sides, would have shunned us,
as would a significant fraction of society. And that would have been
true in the Northeast, where I lived then. It would have been much,
much worse in the South. The Woodstock Generation changed that, or at
least started the change.
There are certainly still racists of
all colors out there, but they've been marginalized, at least among the
middle- and upper classes and the well-educated in general. Most of
that group, seeing the photograph in that article, see only an
attractive young couple that are obviously delighted to have found each
other. I'm sure they'll still have to deal with some racist crap here
and there, but it'll be an order of magnitude less than a mixed-race
couple of my generation would have had to deal with. There may be hope
for us yet.
Happy Birthday to me. Today I turn 57, although I prefer to think of it
as 0x39. Or, as Elayne Boosler would say, twenty-thirty-seven.
started a new tradition today: my annual birthday haircut. Back when
was in college, I just let my hair grow. My hair was extremely curly,
so as it grew it simply expanded outward in a red Afro. Then, a couple
of months ago, I was watching one of Martyn Poliakoff's videos
(he of the white Afro) and wondered if I could still do that. So I've
let my hair grow for the last couple of months, and found that it
indeed does still curl up well enough that I could still grow it out as
an Afro. Since we're just entering the hottest months of the year, I
thought it made sense to start with my hair short as of my birthday and
see how far it'll grow out in the coming weeks and months.