Friday, July 25, 2008

Playstation3 is a Real FLOP!

When you hear the word 'flop', what do you think?

If a movie 'flops at the box office', it is not very popular. If Mr. Lockyer does a 'belly flop into the pool at Aurora Court Recreation Center', he has probably splashed a lot of people. If a political candidate 'flip-flops on an issue', she is not being clear on what she will do if she is elected.

Since I'm a computer geek, when I hear the word 'flop', I think about computers.

In computing, FLOPS (or flops or flop/s) is an acronym that means FLoating point Operations Per Second. The more flop/s a computer can do, the better it is at solving super-duper big math or science problems. A basic calculator, for example, can do somewhere around 10 flop/s. This means that it can do ten mathmatical calculations in one second. A Playstation3 (which, of course, is a computer) can do many, MANY flop/s. For this reason, it is not unknown for scientists to buy a few hundred PS3 systems, hook them together, and have them solve huge math calculations.

One computer recently smashed the flop/s record by operating at more than 1 petaflop/s (if you were to read that out loud, you'd say 'more than one petaflop per second'). So, how much is a petaflop?

Peta is the same as a quadrillion. No, that's not a made up number. It is the same as a million billion, and it looks like this:

1 000 000 000 000 000.

That's right. There is a computer out there that can do a petaflop in a second. This computer is called the IBM Roadrunner. Read about it here. The words are big, but you don't need to understand every word to understand the article. Stick with it, sound out the big words, and use clues from the text to figure out what they mean. If you get really curious, you can always Google>"define:word" (remember not to put a space between the colon and the word you want defined).

Want to have some fun learning about large numbers? Surf on over to Math Cats or go to Google, type, "really big numbers", and check out some of the results. If you're really good at searching, why don't you try to find out how many flop/s your favorite gaming console can do? Which is faster: a Wii, a PS3, or a 360?

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Term One Sneak Peek: Name that Thing!

A motherboard is the large circuit board that everything else plugs into. It lives inside your computer's case. It carries the electrical information between the various parts of a computer as the machine processes information. This is a motherboard (click on the picture to enlarge it, hit the back button on your Internet browser window to return to the blog):

Motherboards look really complicated, and it's true - they are marvels of modern technology. Fortunately, you are brilliant teaching you French Immersion 4/5's and 5/6'ers about their parts during first term should be easy as a snap.

For those of you who feel the need to put your brains to work over the summer, I have a task for you. Every so often this summer, I am going to post a question. You have all summer and the entire first week of school to think about possible answers. I will offer a surprise to all BG students who can correctly answer any of the questions (even if you happen to be a brainy, little, primary kid from the first floor).

So. Question number one.

Every motherboard - in your computer, in your Wii, in whatever - has a type of part on it that looks like a little cylinder. In fact, most motherboards have many of these little things all over them. They look like little pop cans. Their job is to receive and store charges of electricity - sort of like little batteries.
You can see them in both of this post's pictures. What are the pop-can-looking things on the motherboard called?

Graffiti Snails Roaming London

The following article was originally published here. I thought it was cool, and wanted to share. Hope you're all having a wonderful summer!
Most people have to shell out to give their homes a makeover – not so for these multi-coloured molluscs. The flashy snails have had their drab shells given a paint job for nothing – and they didn't even have to move a muscle.
A London artist, known only as Slinkachu, has used the molluscs' shells for a series of designs dubbed 'Inner City Snail – a slow-moving street'.
One was given a graffiti-style urban revamp complete with a new name – John – spelt out across its shell. Another had the Tube logo ["Tube" is the name the people of London, England gave their subway system] painted on as well as acquiring a couple of unexpected passengers.
Slinkachu was keen to point out that non-toxic paints were used. The 28-year-old said: 'No snails were harmed – they just had their homes vandalised.'
And, with their long lifespan, don't be too surprised to see a brightly-coloured snail making its way down a street near you. In a previous project, Little People, Slinkachu photographed tiny plastic figures apparently going about their lives in the capital, from Tube travel to sightseeing. He left many of the figures dotted around the capital for their larger, human equivalents to discover.