The SKA Organization and CERN signed an agreement formally signaling their continued collaboration in the development of extreme scale (exascale) computing. If you are interested in exascale computing, practical applications for data management, scientific investigation, space exploration, and the origins of the universe, then this news should make your inner geek weep with joy.
CERN (Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire)
The majority of you should have familiarity with CERN. It is the research organization operating the largest particle physics lab in the world. Most of the current experiments involve the Large Hadron collider (LHC) particle accelerator. Experiments using the LHC are responsible for proving the existence of the sub-atomic particle the Higgs boson. As a result of this proof of existence, we have proof for the existence of the Higgs field. Most physicists see this proof as the key for moving beyond the Standard Model of particle physics so that we can understand the universe in a fundamentally different way. Needless to say, CERN’s research produces massive amounts of data. Consequently, the data require enormous computing power to process and a colossal storage capacity.
The SKA Organization
However, many of you probably are not familiar with the SKA Organization (Square Kilometre Array Organization). It is an international partnership to manage the construction, maintenance, and use of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA). The SKA is still under construction, but when complete it will be the largest and most advanced radio telescope in existence. The telescope is an array composed of thousands of antennae. The deserts of South Africa and Australia are the two locations that will host the equipment. When the SKA is fully operational, it will have a total collection area of over one square kilometre.
The SKA is estimated to have a sensitivity fifty times more than any other radio instrument. The array will have the ability to survey the sky and cosmos ten thousand times faster than existing devices. As a result, the array will produce an enormous amount of data, estimated at ten times that of today’s global internet traffic. Therefore, the partnership with CERN more than makes sense.
Research Using the SKA
The central research focus is the nature of the universe. The SKA’s design allows it to detect radio signals from billions of light years away. Many of these radio signals represent the birth-sounds of the first galaxies and stars over 13 billion years old.
There is amazing potential for major research breakthroughs into dark matter, dark energy and cosmic magnetism. The project also provides the ability for more robust experimentation to test Einstein’s general theory of relativity. In addition, research will investigate the habitability of planets and include searches for extraterrestrial life.
Is That A Petabyte In Your Pocket, Or Are You Just Happy To Be Doing Scientific Research?
CERN reported that on June 29, the organization surpassed 200 petabytes (PB) of permanently stored data. Current estimates show that SKA will produce in excess of 3,000 PB per year. The first phase of the project alone will produce 300 PB per year.
This means that SKA will produce 160 terabytes of raw data per second. For perspective, this equals the data on 35,000 DVDs per second.
If you’re a bit rusty with your bits and bytes, remember that it goes byte, kilobyte, megabyte, gigabyte, terabyte, petabyte, exabyte. Each successive category is 1000 times the previous category. So, 1000 bytes equal 1 kilobyte, 1000 kilobytes equal 1 megabyte, and so on.
For perspective, the average laptop has a 500GB hard drive, the average desktop 1TB, while the average movie requires 2-5GB of space. The Playstation 4 is stock with 500GB, while the iPhone 7 has options for 32GB, 128GB, or 256GB.
As you can see, the SKA and CERN produce a tremendous amount of data at an astronomically fast rate. Such data production requires advanced computing power. This is the purpose of exascale computing.
Exascale Computing For Your Pleasure
Extreme scale computing is capable of performing a billion billion (a quintillion) calculations per second. In contrast, the current “common” fastest computers are petascale systems that perform a quadrillion calculations per second. The performance increase from petascale to exascale is incredible.
Computing performance is measured in FLOPS, floating point operations per second. An exascale system computes at the level of exaFLOPS. Returning to our earlier comparisons, your Playstation 4 is capable of 1.84 teraFLOPS and the iPhone is at 1.6 gigaFLOPs. If you want to match just one exaFLOPS, you will spend 31,688,765,000 years performing one calculation per second. Yeah, you’ll need a lot of pencils and paper.
The computing power is mind-boggling. Thus, the partnership between CERN and SKA will help continue pushing the development of computers with ridiculously fast calculation power.
SKA and CERN Partnership – A Match Made For The Heavens
Prof. Philip Diamond, the SKA Director-General, said “The signature of this collaboration agreement between two of the largest producers of science data on the planet shows that we are really entering a new era of science worldwide. Both CERN and SKA are and will be pushing the limits of what is possible technologically, and by working together and with industry, we are ensuring that we are ready to make the most of this upcoming data and computing surge.”
Prof. Eckhard Elsen, the CERN Director of Research and Computing, said “The LHC computing demands are tackled by the Worldwide LHC computing grid which employs more than half a million computing cores around the globe interconnected by a powerful network. As our demands increase with the planned intensity upgrade of the LHC we want to expand this concept by using common ideas and infrastructure, into a scientific cloud. SKA will be an ideal partner in this endeavour.”
The two statements best sum-up the collaboration. Therefore, the partnership has amazing potential to expand our knowledge of life, the universe, and, really, everything. Plus, we can hold out hope that further development of exascale computing will trickle down to us consumers and soon enough we’ll have petascale power for our entertainment purposes.
What are your thoughts on the SKA/CERN partnership and the SKA project?
NASA Will Make a Big Announcement About Unidentified Anomalies
NASA will release a major report on UFOs, or “unidentified anomalous phenomena” (UAP).
The briefing will be held at the agency’s Washington DC headquarters at 10:00 EDT (14:00 UTC) on Thursday, September 14. The video player below streams the discussion live.
NASA commissioned an independent study group of 16 scientific, aeronautical, and data experts led by astrophysicist David Spergel in 2022 to produce the findings.
NASA says the study group will “examine UAP from a scientific perspective and create a roadmap for how to use data and the tools of science to move our understanding of UAP forward.”
The team’s full report will be posted online by NASA 30 minutes before the briefing.
This report will be released in accordance with NASA’s openness, transparency, and scientific integrity. When the study was announced last year, NASA’s Science Mission Directorate assistant deputy associate administrator for research, Daniel Evans, said, “We take that obligation seriously and make it easily accessible for anyone to see or study.”
UAP sightings were once the domain of conspiracy theorists and sci-fi, but recent high-profile US military sightings have legitimized them.
US authorities are taking UAPs seriously because they may be Russian or Chinese experimental aircraft being tested for national security.
Also possible is extraterrestrial life. NASA is open to all possibilities, but this week’s announcement won’t reveal alien lifeforms visiting Earth.
Instead, the report may outline new protocols to help the agency collect UAP data in the future.
“The report informs NASA of future data collection opportunities to shed light on UAP’s nature and origin. The announcement’s brief NASA statement said the report is not a review or assessment of previous unidentifiable observations.
“There are currently a limited number of high-quality observations of UAP, which make it impossible to draw firm scientific conclusions about their nature,” the agency said.
NASA’s DART probe successfully collided with an asteroid.
At the time of impact, the impactor vehicle, about the size of a vending machine, was moving at about 14,000 mph.
After traveling for over a year, NASA‘s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission, which attempted to provide answers, “Could a specially crafted satellite be used to divert an asteroid from its planet-destroying course? How about a number? “has effectively impacted the Dimorphos asteroid. However, NASA ground control has confirmed that the DART impact vehicle has intercepted the target asteroid. The results and data from the collision are still being received. Yes, Dimorphos is about the size of a football stadium, but space is very big, extremely dark, and both the asteroid and the spaceship were traveling rather quickly at the time.
“It’s been a successful completion of the first part of the world’s first planetary defense test,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said after the impact. “I believe it’s going to teach us how one day to protect our own planet from an incoming asteroid. We are showing that planetary defense is a global endeavor and it is very possible to save our planet.”
In an effort to investigate the employment of defensive satellites as a method of planetary defense against Near Earth Objects, NASA launched the DART mission in November 2021. Nearly 68 million miles from Earth, the DART impactor vehicle, about the size of a vending machine, tragically crossed Dimorphos’ path while traveling at about 14,000 MPH.
It remains to be seen if future generations of a planetary defense system will be packed with satellites ready to go full June Bug vs. Chrysler Windshield against real planet-killer asteroids. Dimorphos is one of two asteroids that are gravitationally entangled; its parent rock is more than five times larger than Dimorphos itself, but both are dwarfed by the space rock that struck Earth 66 million years ago and destroyed 75% of the planet’s multicellular life while gouging out the Gulf of Mexico.
Various Companies Partner Up to Put a Mobile Phone Network on the Moon
The world of science and technology brings us yet another crazy possibility that’s going to be explored quite soon. Fourth Generation Cellular Networks are seeing implementations on various places. One of them could be the natural satellite orbiting the earth: The Moon.
A partnership between Nokia, Vodafone and Audi is looking to implement cellular networks on the moon sometime next year. Even if the proposition sounds crazy, it seems like they have a lot of plans to make this dream a reality.
Vodafone will be designing the lunar network and will make use of equipment designed by Nokia Bell Labs. This connectivity will allow two Audi Lunar Quattro rovers to communicate wirelessly with a base station at the Autonomous Landing and Navigation Module.
Using existing satellites, mission organizer Part Time Scientists will also be able to live stream scientific data and HD video content from the Moon to viewers on Earth. In other words, we will be getting some very detailed views of Earth for public viewing.
The networking equipment will be launched into space aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. If you think it’s going to be very heavy and sloppy to handle. Nokia’s engineers have worked really hard to make it weigh less than one kilogram.
We’re seeing the vestiges of life in the moon very frequently now. All thanks to the options becoming more and more accessible with the fast advancements in technology. Of course, this rapid growth is far from reaching its peak potential.
Who knows? Maybe we will be able to look at interplanetary travels and living. The sky is the limit when it comes to the amount of creations. Nowadays bizarre ideas like mobile networks in different planets aren’t that far fetched eiher.
It’s going to be an interesting ride, for sure. However, we must be also conscious about the planet we’re currently living in. Even though there are efforts to make this planet greener, there is a lot left to do.
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