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Crystal Ball

Computer crown

NASA's new supercomputer, Columbia, is now the fastest in the world, the space agency has claimed. Columbia has achieved a speed of 42.7 teraflops in a standard benchmark test. A single teraflop is one million million floating-point operations ' or intensive mathematical calculations ' per second. Columbia consists of 10,240 off-the-shelf Intel Itanium 2 processors divided into 20 clusters, of 512 proce-ssors. In each of the clusters, the processors pool their memory, making data exchange between themselves very fast. The clusters are strapped together by a complex network of interconne-cts to form a single machine the size of three basketball courts.

Social robots

Robots are learning how to behave socially, so they can mix better with humans. By making them play games, a University of Hertfordshire team is finding out how future robot companions should react in social situations. The research also focuses on human perception of robots, including how they should look, and how a robot can learn new skills by imitating a human demonstrator. In most situations, a companion robot will eventually have to deal not only with one person, but with groups of people.

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