Friday, March 19, 2010

Donate your CPU Power !

Grid and cloud computing are the industries buzz words these days. But here is a practical, actionable opportunity for everybody to do something really useful:

Free Download  your desktop Grid software here.

Donate your (spare) CPU power of your PC (MAC, Windows, Linux, even PS3s ) for serious academic research.
You might support biochemical research for 3D structures of proteines (which might and will lead to a better understanding of the "mechanics" of life and thus the development of new medicine.
You might chose to support the search for extraterrestral life forms or their signals (SETI @ home), you might also chose a project for better weather forecasts with the benefit of earlier desater alerts and many more.
You can chose the project you like, and switch after some time to give some CPU power to somebody else.

All this is completely voluntary and "free" in the sense that only unused otherwise "wasted" CPU power is used. Modern PCs have a huge reserve in maximem CPU power which is fully used only in a fraction of the usage time.
"Screen savers" are typically purely cosmetic and otherwise useless programs to make some use of this untapped CPU time.
makes use of thousands  better millions of PCs running worlduwide. Download the 7MB academic screensaver and start making some "CPU time" donations today.

This image from a BOINC project display structures at the mars south pole.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Cruise ship safety - no risk no fun

Monster waves had been a long believed myth topic but they are a physical reality - sparse but real.
The recent hazard on the cypric cuise ship "Louis Majesty" is such a reminder.
2 people died as a short triple high wave phenomenon called the "3 sisters" hit deck 5 and burst windows.
The ship and most other passengers did not suffer any further damage and continued safely to Barcelona for repair and passenger swap for the next 14 day "unforgettable dream vacation".
                                Image is screencapture from Youtube movie
Unlike the cuise ship Voyager 5 years ago. Again the calm mediterranean sea, again in February/March - Voyager was bound to Barcelona from Tunisia. It came across the Winter storm Valentina when a monster wave crashed into the bridge (!) and cut off the electronics for engine control.
Loss of engine control then was the main problem as Voyager was helpless literally a bobbing cork on the water. (watch the full Youtube clip to relive and imagine this cruise ship experience for those 780 passengers).
Risk of capsizing is immanent when you cannot turn a ship "into the wind" facing the waves and riding the swell because the ship tends to turn sideways so that wind and swell increase the torsional moment.
Voyager experienced peak bank angles of up to 40-50 degrees far beyond the "comfort zone".
You may - or may not - remember that this horror cruise experience finally had a good ending as well - mechanics managed ultimately to repair the engine control at least partially.

Does this now constitute a warning to "avoid" cruise ship tours alltogether?  How great is the real risk?

The clear - yet totally personal and subjective - answer is no. Apart from unsolved Bermuda triangle mysteries there are no major mass catastrophies yet accountable to monster waves. "Kafrenzmänner" as monster waves are called in German seamen circles are a physical fact but are extremely seldom phenomena.
"At sea and at court you are in God´s hands"
The luxury of contemporary cruise ships should never obscure the fact that we are placing ourselves at sea in the domain of physical forces of extreme power that we cannot fully control.
There is no prediction mechanism or algorithm in sight that could "pre-warn" ships from monster waves - and they can occor in otherwise calm environments, so even enourmous progress in weather forecasting, radar, GPS etc. is no total insurence.
What remains is the simple insight that the beauty and marvellous experience of a cruise ship extravanganza is never without risk - with notable emphasis on the fact that the most risky parts of a cruise ship tour are the flight transfer to the departing port and even more - believe it or not - the car transfer to the airport!