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Sci-stuff
This is what the RAID supercomputer usually looks like unless a bug (right) is trapped within.

World's first supercomputer decommissioned
He world's first teraflop computer has been decommissioned by the U.S. government despite still being among the world's 500 fastest supercomputers. Although young in age, the historic supercomputer -- based at the Sandia National Laboratories in

Albuquerque, N.M., and known as ASCI Red -- is very old by supercomputer standards. It also holds the record for longest continuous rating as the world's fastest computer -- four years running.

The supercomputer first broke the teraflops barrier in December 1996 and topped the world-recognized top-500 computer speed ratings seven consecutive times. Sandia Director Bill Camp said ASCI Red had the best reliability of any supercomputer ever built, and "was supercomputing's high-water mark in longevity, price and performance."

By the way, in case you are wondering, a teraflop represents a trillion mathematical operations per second. Wish I could use that during my O'level exams.

Crows smarter than the average bird
A Canadian nature writer says crows make tools, play tricks on each other, and caw among kin in a dialect all their own -- just like humans. "It's the same kind of consonance we find between bats that can fly and birds that can fly and insects that can fly," Candace Savage who is based in Saskatoon, Canada, told National Geographic News.

As a sign of crows' intelligence, Savage cites a 2002 study appearing in the journal Science in which a captive New Caledonian crow bent a straight piece of wire into a hook to fetch a bucket of food in a tube. "No other animal -- not even a chimp -- has ever spontaneously solved a problem like this, a fact that puts crows in a class with us as toolmakers," Savage writes in her book. "There's a lot more going on in a bird brain than people 10 years ago would have imagined," she told NGN.

That still does not explain why crows eat garbage. But they must be smart because they always poop on cars with such pinpoint accuracy.

Color-changing snake found in Borneo
Scientists have discovered a previously unknown species of snake in Borneo that changes color when night falls. The Kapuas mud snake was found in swamps near the Kapuas River in the Betung Kerihun National Park in the Indonesian section. It was found by a dude named of Borneo by Mark Auliya, a herpetologist with the Alexander Koenig Zoo in Bonn, Germany, and the World Wildlife Fund.

Auliya described the two specimens he collected as about half a meter (18 inches) long and venomous. "I put the reddish- brown snake in a dark bucket," Auliya said. "When I retrieved it a few minutes later, it was almost entirely white." Of course, the way I see it, if the scientist was put into a bucket of water for a while he would become quite white too.

While some animals, including chameleons, change color for camouflage, the Kapuas mud snake apparently does so to conserve heat. A dark color during the day would allow the snake to absorb more heat instead of reflecting it into the atmosphere. Stuart Chapman, coordinator of the World Wildlife Fund's Heart of Borneo program, said that the color changing may explain why the snake was not previously recognized.

By Gokhra


Book review
Adrian mole

Q: What do you call a man with a seagull on his head?
A: Cliff
Did you find that funny? No? Neither does Adrian Mole. He's an Intellectual, after all. He'd much rather write poetry, and would you believe it, he got TWO rejections from the BBC?

Welcome to the wacky world of Adrian Mole. Through his diary entries, we get to meet his promiscuous parents, his chain-smoking sexagenarian friend, and his accident-prone dog. Many, many years before Harry Potter was conceived, children (and quite a number of adults) were crying and laughing and falling in love with this quirky young kid, and his best-selling creator, Sue Townsend.

It all started back in 1981, with the publication of the first book The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 ¾ , an unabashed, pimples-and-all glimpse into the troubled life of an adolescent. Writing candidly about his parents' marital troubles, the dog, his life as a tortured poet and 'misunderstood intellectual', teenager Adrian Mole's painfully honest diary caught the imagination of readers of all ages, and led to an equally hilarious sequel, The Growing Pains of Adrian Mole. There were three other sequels to these two, but this review focuses on the first two books.

The stories start from New Year's Day, when a thirteen-year-old Mole starts with his New Year Resolutions, which include being kind to the dog, and doing social work. While the first one flies out the window within the first week, the second leads to his meeting Bart, a sixty year old war veteran with a vicious pet Alsatian. Throughout the course of the first diary, which spans over a year or so, he meets and falls in love with a feminist called Pandora, witnesses his parents' break-up and subsequent affairs, and receives two rejections from the BBC, where he sent his poetry.

The second book takes up where the first leaves off, and chronicles his break-up and reunion with Pandora, his parents' reunion, the birth of two half-siblings, each related to him by a different parent, Bart's autumn marriage, and more.

The diaries read like a cross between Frank O Connor and Helen Fielding; with the supreme self-absorption of Connor's Larry (of My Oedipus Complex fame), and the quirkiness of Fielding's Bridget Jones (no need for an introduction there, eh?) Underneath the humor, though, is a rich sense of irony, where Mole is either truly unaware, or trying to suppress his realisation of his parents' adultery, and the subsequent problems in his family. Townsend is a genius, who manages to capture the tone and feel of her young character, and yet highlights issues that even adults can relate to. Quite emotional roller-coaster.

Packed to the max with humour, insight, and irony, this book will make you laugh and cry and laugh again.

By Sabrina F Ahmad
Sabera.jade@gmail.com


 

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