Categories
Science Space

Nasa unveils Pumpkin sun just in time for Halloween

Just in time for Halloween, NASA has posted a photo of the sun that looks like a massive flaming jack-o’-lantern.

NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory shot the photo earlier this month.

The fiery slits in the image reveal the most active parts of the sun.

Writes NASA:

Active regions on the sun combined to look something like a jack-o-lantern’s face on Oct. 8, 2014. The active regions appear brighter because those are areas that emit more light and energy — markers of an intense and complex set of magnetic fields hovering in the sun’s atmosphere, the corona. This image blends together two sets of wavelengths at 171 and 193 angstroms, typically colorized in gold and yellow, to create a particularly Halloween-like appearance.

Credit: NASA/GSFC/SDO
Categories
Nature Science Travel

How Australia’s Lake Hillier gets its pink color

Lake Hillier in the Recherche Archipelago of Western Australia is known for its pink color.

The lake’s bubble-gum color continues to be debated but scientists indicate that the pink body of water is the result of the intermixing of Halobacteria and a salt-tolerant algae species called Dunaliella Salina.

The Halobacteria is known to produce red pigments which when mixed with salt-tolerant Dunaliella Salina, creates a stunning strawberry milkshake color.

Australia's Lake Hillier pink color
via twitter

Unlike other pink lakes that morph into colors, Lake Hillier retains its pink hue all year round. It’s also safe to swim in.

When viewed from above, the contrast between the pink and dark blue ocean is also striking. You can learn more here.

Categories
Science

Watch a soap bubble freeze

Did you know that you can blow up soap bubbles and instantly freeze them into ice orbs?

If you’re searching for a fun cold-weather activity, this is worth trying out.

Popular Science explains the science behind bubble freeze, in addition to instructions on how to make one.

There’s some interesting science at play here. Every bubble is made up of three individual layers: a thin layer of water molecules squished between two layers of soap. It might look like the entire surface of the bubble is freezing, but what you’re actually seeing is the innermost layer of water—which freezes at warmer temperatures than soapy water—turning to ice within the film.

As the soapy water turns into ice crystals, the inside of the bubble appears to swirl around to create a beautiful effect of a snowglobe — very photographic!

But the ice bubbles don’t last forever, notes bubble photographer Chris Ratzlaff: “Bubbles are such ephemeral things,” he says. “To be able to literally freeze them in time is such a rare experience.”

Enjoy some more bubble freezing videos below:

Categories
Nature Travel

Australia is building car-less neighborhoods

Melbourne, often ranked as one of the world’s most livable cities, is looking to construct neighborhoods where people will never have to use a car.

The city is creating “20-minute neighborhoods” that make going from home to the office, school, grocery, or doctor’s office no more than 20 minutes away.

Whether on foot, bike, or trolley, Melbourne residents will be able to get around the city to their most visited spots with even needing to dial up Uber.

From New York City’s Times Square to Barcelona and Hamburg, cities are reversing the automobile obsession for more traditional and healthier transportation needs.

Categories
Science Technology

Google achieves “quantum supremacy” with the 54-qubit Sycamore processor

Image via Google

Google confirmed that it has officially achieved achieved quantum supremacy with the 54-qubit Sycamore processor.

Writes Engineering Director Hartmut Neven on Google’s blog:

Today, the scientific journal Nature has published the results of Google’s efforts to build a quantum computer that can perform a task no classical computer can; this is known in the field as “quantum supremacy.” In practical terms, our chip, which we call Sycamore, performed a computation in 200 seconds that would take the world’s fastest supercomputer 10,000 years.

IBM has downplayed the innovation saying that the the classical computer can run the same simulation in 2.5 days.

Writes the IBM Research Blog, “We argue that an ideal simulation of the same task can be performed on a classical system in 2.5 days and with far greater fidelity. This is in fact a conservative, worst-case estimate, and we expect that with additional refinements the classical cost of the simulation can be further reduced.”

IBM also said that Google “failed to fully account for plentiful disk storage” in a traditional supercomputer to exaggerate the supremacy of its machine.

Both Google and IBM make valid points, with the objective takeaway being how quantum computing will make its way into everyday tasks and how much more potential there is in classical computing.

Either way, the 54-qubit Sycamore processor is a far cry from the 5MB hard drive that IBM released in 1956 that weighed over a ton.

Categories
Technology

The first supercomputer, IBM’s 305 RAMAC from 1956

The first supercomputer, IBM's 305 RAMAC from 1956

In September 1956 IBM launched the 305 RAMAC, the world’s first supercomputer with 5 MB of data.

The machine weighed over a ton — it took a team of people to transport it.

To put the computer size and storage in perspective, our pocket-sized phones contain 256GB of storage.

120 Years of Moore’s Law

Like fire and farming techniques before it, the ubiquity of computers and the exponential processing speed of chips, also known as Moore’s Law, changed the course of history. But even Moore’s Law is dying in exchange for brain-inspired chips.

Writes venture capitalist Steve Jurvetson who updated Ray Kurzweil’s visualization of Moore’s Law:

The fine-grained parallel compute architecture of a GPU maps better to the needs of deep learning than a CPU. There is a poetic beauty to the computational similarity of a processor optimized for graphics processing and the computational needs of a sensory cortex, as commonly seen in neural networks today.

Stephen T. Jurvetson

Dare we say it, the next supercomputer is not only artificially intelligent, but it also melds the mind and the machine.

Forget Google. Imagine having already downloaded all the relevant knowledge directly to your mind and using it expeditiously.

Here’s how IBM’s Director of Research Dario Gil sees the fusion of chips, neurons, artificial intelligence, and quantum computing wiring together.

“We’re beginning to see an answer to what is happening at the end of Moore’s law. It’s a question that has been the front of the industry for a long, long time.

And the answer is that we’re going to have this new foundation of bits plus neurons plus qubits coming together, over the next decade [at] different maturity levels – bits [are] enormously mature, the world of neural networks and neural technology, next in maturity, [and] quantum the least mature of those. [It] is important to anticipate what will happen when those three things intersect within a decade.”

Dario Gil