Maximum insanity – scientists charged for not predicting earthquake

June 17, 2010

wtfTo blame or not to blame, that is the question. Politics and science sometimes just don’t mix, and now we have another example right out of the real life. You think politicians are sane or educated enough to cope with science? You think they actually understand what science is about? You better think twice. This is insane:

News out of Italy suggests that seven researchers who did not predict the L’Aquila earthquake in April 2009 are under formal investigation and may be charged with gross negligent manslaughter.

I wonder if they will charge Berlusconi for aiding and abetting because he cut funds for basic research.

Next on: Politicians sueing meterologists for Kathrina. Politicians sueing vulcanologists for Mt. St. Helens. Politicians sueing petrologists for the BP oil spill. Errrr… Right.

Film at 10.

“AI That Picks Stocks Better Than the Pros” – and then what?

June 15, 2010

Chi squareOut there at Technology Review I found this article about an “AI” (you may raise your eyebrows here) which is supposed to better in stock-market speculations than actual humans. For a brief introduction let me quote TR:

It’s called the Arizona Financial Text system, or AZFinText, and it works by ingesting large quantities of financial news stories (in initial tests, from Yahoo Finance) along with minute-by-minute stock price data, and then using the former to figure out how to predict the latter. Then it buys, or shorts, every stock it believes will move more than 1% of its current price in the next 20 minutes – and it never holds a stock for longer.

TR points out, that analyses similar to the described algorithm exists since the 90ies. However, the new systems doesn’t actually parse all the data, but concentrates on some keywords which seem to be of relevance.

I see two very odd flaws there.

  1. A good AI predicting the stock-market based on human-written text – which could be technically used by *anyone* who could afford it – would lead to a situation where stocks keep heating up. Speculation will grow rapidly and positive feedback loops will possibly run into an overdrive situation. I wouldn’t opt in for a ban on such a software but on full disclosure if this software was used on a certain bid. This could help in debugging situations and to give legislators something to think off when the shit already hit the fan.
  2. If the algorithm actually concentrates on keywords in context rather than in the whole analysis of the text, I bet a fiver that it wouldn’t even take a few weeks until some clever consulting company analyzed the algorithm and makes up a process how to tweak your fiscal reports so that AZFinText favours this text. Think of the stock-market equivalent of a Google bomb.

Nobody in Technology Review’s forum seems to be worried about the real-life implications… I think I’m just pointing out the obvious and that the stock-market professionals already made up their own ideas.

Virtual School of Computational Science and Engineering offering new courses

May 13, 2010
NCSA logo


The VSCSE, the Virtual School of Computational Science and Engineering, is once again offering courses. For this time, they added quite a lot of new sites, where you can attend the courses – 21 sites in all over the US are now available as classrooms. The VSCSE is provided and funded by the Great Lakes Consortium for Petascale Computation (GLCPC), the National Science Foundation (NSF), the State of Illinois, the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC), and Internet2 Commons.

Their press-release:

Want to learn how to use graphics processors for scientific computing? Scale your parallel code to tens of thousands of CPU cores? Deal with ginormous datasets? The Virtual School of Computational Science and Engineering offers these courses and more during its summer program for 2010!

Since 2008, nearly 250 students and researchers have participated in the annual Summer School offered by the Virtual School. During Summer School, students learn new techniques for applying high-performance computing systems to their work. Due to overwhelming demand for courses in previous Summer Schools, we have added 15 sites (for a total of 21 sites) to the 2010 program in order to accommodate additional students. For each course, students attend on-site in one of 10 state-of-the-art, distributed high-definition (HD) classrooms, located at academic and research institutions across the country. These HD classrooms are equipped with live, high-definition videoconferencing technology that provides a high-quality learning experience.

Students attend technical sessions presented by leading researchers in computational science and engineering and use cutting edge, high-performance computing systems provided by TeraGrid resource providers. Course participants apply the techniques learned in hands-on lab sessions, assisted by skilled teaching assistants who work one-on-one and in small groups to answer questions and solve problems posed during the sessions. This summer’s courses are:

The cost for each course is only $100. To participate, prospective students must first be enrolled in the Virtual School. Enrollment is free and can be completed at After enrolling, students select their courses and indicate which of the distributed HD classrooms they would like to attend.

Snacks and an evening reception will be provided; participants are responsible for travel and lodging costs (low-cost dorm accommodations will be provided where possible). Because of the large geographic diversity of participating sites, it is likely that little travel will be required.

For no additional cost, on-site participants can take online short courses on MPI, OpenMP, and CUDA that are designed to help them meet course prerequisites.

For more information on the 2010 courses, including the sites participating in each course and details on enrollment, go to:

The LHC should invest in better quality…

October 31, 2008

Click image for high-resolution!


Image (C) by Stolen without permission. :)

I bet the Tevatron is a partner of Denon… ;-)

X-Ray Galore – with sticky tape!

October 23, 2008

Since Tomaso likes to play around with his personal dosimeter on airplanes, I’d like to propose him a new 50 keV X-Ray experiment for his toy.

Everyone knows that peeling of scotch tape under her or his blanket emits some light. But did you also know that you can’t only use it as holographic memory but also let it send off X-Rays in vacuum? I found this article on Hack A Day today and also this really cool video up on Nature’s website.

So, vacuum-chamber anyone? Thinking of Ponder Stibbons‘[1] proposal to create a lot of electricity by mounting a lot of cats to wheel and let an amber-rod stroke their fur, I could think of an easier way to produce lots of X-Rays than the method DESY is using ;-)

[1] Obviously a Discworld reference.

Bronze Buddha by rconstruct

March 6, 2008

Now for something completely different: A friend of mine, head-artist of our really great WW2-submarine simulation “Danger from the Deep“, rendered this classic standard Stanford-Buddha with his own procedural shaders powered by Shrimp (which means: No textures!). It’s just so gorgeous, I had to share it with his kind permission.

Bronze Buddha by rconstruct - 400×400
Fig 1: Stanford standard Buddha, original mesh by Stanford University, cleaned, decimated, converted to RiSubd with K-3D by rconstruct (click for 1024×1024 PNG)

Ain’t that nice?

Check out Shrimp, an interactive Renderman shader creator.

P.S.: Whoring++ – all those creationists are tagging their postings with “science” – so I’m going to tag that posting with “science” (it’s CS) and “religion” (it’s a Buddha!) as well.

Gedankenexperiment: Why travelling near light-speed is a bad idea

July 4, 2007

EinsteinA couple of friends and me were quite in a jolly mood so we came up with this idea:

Travelling near light speed is bad for humans. The electrons of the atoms which make up the human body gain a lot of energy – but eventually, when you reach your destination, you need to pull the brake. Where should all the excess energy go which the electrons piled up? Bloody Bremsstrahlung which’ll harm the body :)

Next time I need to do some calculations how much radition you’d pile up at certain speeds relative toc.

Stay tuned for more drunken theories.

Tell me about your concerns!


1) Tonnie pointed out that he’d be more concerned about debris in space on your path. I agree with him, although that’s a lame excuse not going to space :)

Spin, pulsar, spin!

January 25, 2007

SpaceVia Scientific Computing:

The January issue of Nature has an article (subscribers only) about a solution to the problem how pulsars get their spin. This was quite a mystery, for a pulsar should have the same spin as the star it used to be, but faster because it’s contracting during the collapse. However, it somehow didn’t sum up – this theory would only be true for very fast spinning pulsars – those with a rotation-time less than a second or so.

Now some fellow from the Department of Energy and the North Carolina State University used Oak Ridge‘s Phoenix (rated 32 in the TOP500), a Cray X1E supercomputer, to perform detailed simulations about what happens during the collapse.

The results were interesting; apparently the spin of the neutron star is not determined by the spin of the star, but from the shock waves which occur when the solid iron-core of the star collapses:

“That shock wave is inherently unstable, a discovery the team made in 2002, and eventually becomes cigar-shaped instead of spherical. The instability creates two rotating flows — one in one direction directly below the shock wave and another, inner flow, that travels in the opposite direction and spins up the core.

“The stuff that’s falling in toward the center, if it hits this shock wave that is not a sphere any more but a cigar-shaped surface, will be deflected,” Mezzacappa said. “When you do this in 3-D, you find that you wind up with not only one flow, but two counter-rotating flows.”

Interesting stuff, although I must admit that I didn’t really understand everything. A pity that no animations or better pictures than the one published at Scientific Computing are available, it could enlight the uninitiated. Kudos to Dorigo, for he presents his results in a way that even the dumbest high-school-grade physics-adept understands it :) (if brain is enabled)

Spin, spin, spin! I get all dizzy.

P.S.: The ORNL website seems to be down at the moment. Wasn’t me!

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Rosetta: Article “Deciphering Protein Structures”

September 14, 2006

Rosetta@home logoVia the NCSA:

The NCSA wrote a very easy to understand, yet quite complete article with explanations about David Baker’s Rosetta project, an theoretical approach to deduct a protein’s structure using computer-simulations.

Things I learned from this article:

  1. The code does not start with a “flat” protein-molecule, starting to wiggle it around, but with a “homologous known protein structure” as a starting point. I don’t understand if that’s good or bad, but it limits the permutations to be checked.
  2. David created a portal known as Robetta, where other biologists can submit their models to be crunched.
  3. The Rosetta-project (not to be confused with Rosetta@home) uses a lot of CPU-hours on NCSA’s clusters and supercomputers (Tungsten Linux Cluster, NCSA Condor Flock, and now possibly TeraGrid resources)

However, quite a nice read, go and grab it while it’s hot!

Tech Tags:

Big-scale quantum-computing

September 10, 2006

Those damn QuantumsCreating quantum-computers is hard. You’re working with nano-sized devices, which are hard to manipulate, hard to connect to the outside world, extremly fragile, basically a bitch to work with.

Geordie from D-Wave, a quantum-company in Canada, bloged about how they build big-scale quantum-devices through exploting superconduction. They cool down niobium, a transition metal, until it becomes a superconductor (that would be 9.2 Kelvin) – a bunch of superconducting niobium-atoms behave like they would be only one atom instead of many. Speaking of quantum-mechanics they really behave like one single big atom – therefore you can use it for quantum-experiments.

So instead of using very few individual atoms for building up a quantum-chip, they use many atoms, cool them down until they become a superconductor (and possibly an Einstein-Bose condensate, see below) – voila!

Unfortunately my knowledge about that topic ain’t not enough to completly understand the implications, but as i understand it – and i invite you to correct me – is that the niobium-devices they build get cooled down until they become an Einstein-Bose condensate, start behaving like one atom on a macroscopic scale, therefore behave like a blown-up version of single-atom quantum-devices.

Now how cool is that? Pretty cool.

Picture courtesy of Florian Marquardt, released under the GNU FDL.

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