Wednesday, December 31, 2003

The 5 Ghz liquid nitrogen cooled chip

Here is a CPU Cooling With Liquid Nitrogen Record Attempt: The 5 GHz Project. An interesting data is the extreme heat dissipation that needs to accomodate for the 1600 KW per square meter, or about a thousand times the heat flux received from the sun on a solar panel in space. Liquid nitrogen only helps because the actual surface area in this example is small. The actual output is 84 W (not much more than a light bulb). A capillary loop heat pipe would do the job without having to resort to cryogenics. But hey, liquid nitrogen looks good on slashdot.
A more focused search engine

Here is a search engine that seem to significantly do better than google on very narrowly focused search (especially in science and especially for france): With this one I found this document (from here and here). Something I could not find easily with google. I understand the subject is very narrow, but sometimes this type of search is very much needed. Then again in order to further the initial search I had to go back to google to find this site.

Friday, December 26, 2003

Racing for a million buckarus...

When DARPA came up with the concept of offering a million bucks for a their grand challenge, little did they realize people would come in droves. They were expecting about 25 teams with really about 4 or 5 strong contenders. The deadline for regsitration passed and they had 120 teams listed as potential competitors. They had to go through a process by which to weed out some of the teams. And they did. They now have about 25 teams. The 25 teams that are currently accepted in, have to go through DARPA's inspection and then have to show up in March in California. The people who did not get accepted felt it was somehow unfair, so they decided to set up their own challenge. One rule: come with your vehicle on day one and race. No inspection, just show up. My team did not get selected, however, I am thinking about having a stronger team next year for either the official DARPA or the IRRF challenges. For those who don't know about it. The rule is simple, build an autonomous vehicle that can drive 300 miles in 10 hours.

Monday, December 22, 2003

Using a Programming Language for your Graphics Card

This Brook Language is interesting. Now one can think of the graphics card as a CPU. Some of the numbers I have seen seem to be in line with some of the FGPA speed I had looked into earlier. Maybe a real use of this type of Hardware is to go after the first prime with 10^6 digits. Or maybe, stream processing is the only way to solve the linear transport equation. A good review of what it or cannot do can be found here. Looks like it is ideally suited for a Monte_carlo type of computation. We did a small study on a shading type of algorithm with an 2 million gates FPGA and the thing was beating a pentium 2 GHz machine a hundredfold. The interesting information was that the FPGA was only running at about 100 MHz. A 2 Ghz general CPU is beaten on a specific purpose computation a hundredfold with a chip clocked at 1/20th the rate.

Friday, December 19, 2003

Desperately Seeking Primes

So it's going to be 100 K$ for the first 10 million digit prime as stated in this EFF Release. An interesting approach is by these guys, but I am wondering if one should not be looking into a totally different approach. Say for instance use the connection between the heat equation and the Euler product . Another interesting approach could be found here.. One of the most interesting graphs i have seen on this subject is the animation for the prime counting function as shown in here. Maybe if one were to use a wavelet decomposition of this function so we could clearly detect the jumps of that function for any large numbers (since we seem to know Riemann's zero up to 10^22)? what would initially be interesting is to study how many zeros of the Riemann's function do you need to know to obtain a good resolution on the \psi_0 function ? So now the question is really can we find Riemann's zeros around 10^(10^6) ? The latest prime found has 6 millions digits. The race is on.

Saturday, December 13, 2003

Interesting how movies can trigger real life scenarios...

I was once talking to a friend recently and I was telling him there was a need for a Grand Challenge in the thermal engineering area (like trying to drill inside earth). Then six months later came this movie. And then today, one can also read about the decrease of the Earth Magnetic field . Obviously, some people have been doing some thinking on this subject (The Jules Verne Project). It would not be so alarming, if we had a sense on how bad the sun can get. Yet, we don't, as witnessed in the recent unexpected X10+ solar storm. For that matter, nobody seems to have made the connection between this solar storm and the freak weather in california (or here) or in the northeast. At least, I am not saying the sky is falling on our heads. Then again, we have also been witness to this. As long as it is not blue ice, I think we're OK.

Friday, December 05, 2003

On ISO and how do you implement a "lessons learned" process in a very large R&D organization ?

I just came across the following tidbit: an internal document produced at the Mashall Space Flight Center as a result of a stand down week at NASA. The purpose was for NASA to look into the recommendations of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board. Nasa Watch has the full document here:

"One facet of this program is Retaining Knowledge."

"The ISO process, in its entirety may not be applicable to the continuous R&D efforts within the payload area."

"NASA processes are not well documented, and too many of them are labeled out of scope� under ISO9000, the only quality assurance program in use. ISO 9000 was designed to require documentation of all processes, and yet as implemented at NASA and MSFC it is hoop-jumping paperwork that simply adds to the confusion. Where processes are documented, the reasons behind these processes are often obscured and difficult to find, as may be the full documentation on the proper way to proceed."

" ISO 9000 has absolutely nothing to do with real safety, it just generates paperwork. Lack of technical safety expertise of safety personnel. Not enough engineering test and inspection; generally reviews are handled as just a review of paper. Lack of priority on safety issues; all safety issues are treated equally. Safety training is more bureaucratic and not related to practical knowledge of safety in a laboratory environment. Lessons learned are not incorporated from missions or programs. Each person is the bottom line of safety. Need double-checking by technical personnel"

"I don't think that we in MSAD have a useful, relevant database that can easily be referenced by PMs, LSEs, PI/PSs, Managers, or our support contractors. We don't take advantage of our organizational experience to increase our chances of future success."

" We are being engrained with the need to provide the elevator speech - the problem is that very often the elevator speech is all that we learn - and obviously all that we are able to communicate. As a leading edge community we should and must do better. ". . . impatience, the mother of stupidity, praises brevity . . ." Leonardo da Vinci, 1513. This is also spreading to the need for numerous dry runs prior to the visit of dignitaries. Knowing one's subject beyond the elevator speech level and the Powerpoint chart will led to refreshing spontaneity. This will probably be more appreciated."

"There seems to exist a lack of understanding by managers of probability theory governing events that had occurred during previous flights, events that seemingly did not produce serious consequences. This lack of understanding or misinterpretation led these managers to assume that future similar events would not produce serious flight safety issues or conditions "

At some point, NASA will be able to solve these problems. The issue remains though, is an ISO process needed for organizations that are in the business of cranking out single items or prototypes ? How does one keep knowledge in an organization that spread over several states and decades ? Can a large task manager of some kind do the job ? If so, how does one go about extracting the knowledge from different performances ? NASA has a lessons learned program, but how does one make sure that the task performed by somebody within the organization has a "link" of some kind to a particular past incident ? Maybe a Bayesian filter combining the tasks listed in the task manager with the appropriate lessons learned database entries could do the trick?
What makes an application go supercritical ?

When Mark Shuttleworth talks about his thoughts of building up an Open Source application, it reminded me of a previous similar experience. My own experience is really that one can fall very easily into the problem of having a technical solution/framework/language running the functional requirements. What happens is that one waits so long for some features to be implemented that the developer feels that he/she has invested too much that she/he cannot turn back. The longer the time people wait for a functionality to show up, the longer the developer is cornered into the framework/language he/she has already used. In the end, the list of needed functionalities builds up and the user's interest winds down. It is therefore all the more important to have both a person involved in the day-to-day use of this application be the project manager and have developers use a language/framework that is responsive to the speed at which the project manager and other alpha-users can produce new functionality requirements. In our case, the initial use of Java brought the former item to light, we had to switch to PHP. Evidently, the ideal case would be to have a developer on the end of the line of a call center a la Paul Graham ( check for "while the user was still on the phone"). Lisp anybody ?

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Game-Movie Director ?

Last night, I was watching the 17 minutes feature "Modern Day Gamer 2" and realized how much potential there was in showing what games were like from a third party (neutral) perspective. Could this be the next move of reality TV ? In their constant quest for ever increasing Return On Investment, what is cheaper than a computer generated world ? The editing of battles/tournament could yield mesmerizing effects/rendition while still keeping the human factor (the main selling point) of these productions...

Monday, December 01, 2003

Waking up

All of us at some point in time have had problems waking up in the morning. Lack of sleep, will or whatever, I have always been astonished by the lack of offerings in terms of intelligent waking mechanisms. I mean, a simple buzzer just doesn't do it. There are very few alarm clocks with two settings and I know of no alarm clocks with an intelligent way of waking people up. One could think of building an alarm clock that fits ones sleeping patterns and waking patterns. Some type of algorithm using a bayesian approach may be the answer.