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IBM Roadrunner Tops Cray as the Official World's Fastest Supercomputer

IBM Roadrunner Tops Cray as the Official World's Fastest Supercomputer

It's like a geek soap opera. Just last week, Cray bragged that their updated Jaguar XT supercomputer was the world's fastest. Now this week, IBM responds to the trash talk with a number one ranking of their Roadrunner system on the newly published Top500 supercomputing list. Both the IBM and

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MSI's X-Slim X340, X600 Are Two More Sub-$1000 Macbook Air Lookalikes

MSI's X-Slim X340, X600 Are Two More Sub-$1000 Macbook Air Lookalikes

We don't know much about MSI's X-Slim netbook line being touted in China, but from the looks of it, these machines are winners: super-slim form factors, light-weight, 13.4 or 15.6-inch screens, and low cost. Thus far the X-Slims have only been unveiled in China, and details, such as the processor a

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Atmel maxTouch Technology Used in the Samsung Galaxy Tab

Atmel maxTouch Technology Used in the Samsung Galaxy Tab

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8weBw6M9HHY&feature=player_embedded[/youtube] It’s been announced that Samsung’s chosen Atmel’s maxTouch display technology for use in their Samsung Galaxy Tab – something they also did with their Samsung Galaxy S phones. HTC also decided to go

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Nvidia GeForce 200M Graphics Cards Just Made Your Notebook Old and Busted

Nvidia GeForce 200M Graphics Cards Just Made Your Notebook Old and Busted

A year after Nvidia's monstrous GeForce 200 series graphics cards first stomped onto the scene (literally the biggest GPUs ever), Nvidia's finished making them mobile, delivering double the performance of current 9M series using half the power. The first GeForce 200M notebook cards—the GTX 280M a

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Super Talent Releases Mini PCIe SSDs Specifically For ASUS Eee PCs

Super Talent Releases Mini PCIe SSDs Specifically For ASUS Eee PCs

Super Talent launched a special series of mini PCIe SSDs for the ASUS Eee PC in 16, 32 and 64 GB sizes, meant to complement the 20 GB HDD found in some of the higher end models. The drives read at 40 mbps, write at 10 mbps and come in NAND MLC or NAND SLC configurations. The drives are expected

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Cheers To Finger Power!

Cheers To Finger Power!

Mind you, this is not a “Green” concept and neither does it claim to be “Eco Friendly”. It’s just a helpful solution for a tricky situation. The situation being: you running out of juice on your mobile phone. So what do you do? Remove the battery from the back of the phone; give it

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JavaFX Preview SDK to be released this week

JavaFX Preview SDK to be released this week

Sun will release a preview version of the JavaFX Software Development Kit later this week, fulfilling a pledge made at JavaOne this year. Joshua Marinacci writes: I’m excited by what we’ve put together but also exhausted. We’ve done an incredible amount of work during the last year. Now I kno

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Thirsty ethanol? An insider's view.

An exec from an energy company has repliedc to my earlier blog on a study of ethanol production and its water requirements. Here are some comments from Growth Energy’s CEO, Tom Buis. “America’s ethanol producers recognize that water is a precious natural resource that must be conserved. Throu

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HKC Pearl is the Ultimate Knockoff Phone (It Runs Android!)

HKC Pearl is the Ultimate Knockoff Phone (It Runs Android!)

You have to respect any phone that takes its brand name and styling cues from HTC, model name from RIM and then throws Android on it. Because that's exactly what the HKC Pearl did. Ok, maybe its not the ultimate knockoff when you look at the tech specs, but the phone actually isn't too shabby,

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$35 Dollar Tablet Will Cost $20, Eventually $10

$35 Dollar Tablet Will Cost $20, Eventually $10

The Indian government has revealed its super-super-low-priced tablet computer, which it says it'll start selling to students this year—for $35. It's a bit bulky, but for $35 you can't really whine about the bezel size. Indian authorities expect to be able to make and sell the chunky comput

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Eat Bacteria to Boost Brain Power

Eat Bacteria to Boost Brain Power

Could playing in the dirt make you smarter? Mice given peanut butter laced with a common, harmless soil bacterium ran through mazes twice as fast and enjoyed doing so.

So says Dorothy Matthews of the Sage Colleges in Troy, New York state, who presented her results at the annual meeting of the American Society for Microbiology in San Diego, California, this week.

In a classic test of learning ability, Matthews gave mice a treat – white bread with peanut butter – as a reward to encourage them to learn to run through a maze. When she laced the treat with a tiny bit of Mycobacterium vaccae, she found that the mice ran through the maze twice as fast as mice that were given plain peanut butter. This suggests that they had learned to navigate the maze faster, Matthews says.

Moreover, the mice given the bacteria continued to run the maze faster than those without it for 18 more trials over the next six weeks, showing they weren’t just made more alert by a surprise change to their treat. This effect lasted for four weeks after the last piece of doctored peanut butter was given to the mice.

Speedy solvers

Matthews believes this was caused by the effect M. vaccae has on the immune system, something that was investigated in 2007 by Chris Lowry, now at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Lowry was trying to explain why sick people – who have activated immune systems – often become depressed and sluggish, which could be an adaptation that speeds recovery.

His team found that exposing mice to the bacteria, and hence activating their immune system, activated clusters of neurons in their brainstem called the dorsal Raphe nuclei. These neurons connect to the forebrain and other brain structures that regulate mood and behaviour.

This result led Matthews to investigate whether the bacteria’s effect on the brain extended to a more general difference in cognitive function – and she found that it did.

Focus on that maze

The bacteria may speed up learning because the Raphe nuclei stimulate a brain region called the hippocampus, which handles spatial memory, she says.

But the bacteria also changed the mice’s mood – they showed less behaviour that indicates anxiety, such as grooming and searching, perhaps analogous to the calmer behaviour immune activation triggers in people.

This is likely to have been caused by changes to the higher mental functions in the forebrain, which perhaps allowed them to focus better on the maze.

Matthews says that exposure to soil bacteria may affect human brains too. “It just shows that we evolved with dirt as hunter-gatherers,” she says. “So turn off your TV and go work in your garden, or walk in the woods.”

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