GeekSpeak for 2006-09-30

A Battery of Roving Plant Cores

Exploding batteries, plants that smell, 80-core CPUs, and the NASA Mars rovers (eat your heart out Energizer Bunny!). The Geeks Miles Elam, Lyle Troxell, Sean Cleveland, and Drew Meyer take your calls and cover the news.


! Geek News

!! Sony Global Recall of [Li-Ion|Lithium-Ion] Batteries

Find out [more about the story|http://www.marketwatch.com/News/Story/Story.aspx?dist=newsfinder&siteid=google&guid=%7B90DDF909-64A6-43D9-839F-E00D49339CA2%7D&keyword=], which affects laptops from Dell, Apple, Toshiba, and Lenovo (IBM).

!! Mars Rovers

Geek news from Mars! Run for your lives!!!

!!! NASA Mars Rover Reaches New Vista

The NASA Mars Rover Opportunity finished its 21-month, 5.7 mile journey from the “Endurance” crater to “Victoria Crater,” a crater approximately five times wider than the previous statdium-sized crater it studied for half a year. Steve Squyres of Cornell University calles it “a geologist’s dream come true.” He is hoping to learn whether the wet era they found recorded in the rocks closer to the landing site extends farther back in time. The deepness of Victoria Crater may let them do just that. The Mars Rover Opportunity has been exploring Mars since January 2004, more than 10 times longer than its original prime mission of three months. NASA announced that operations for both the Opportunity and Spirit rovers will be minimized for much of October as Mars passes nearly behind the sun from Earth’s perspective, making radio communication more difficult than usual.

!!! Next Mars Rover May Carry Plutonium

Will the next NASA Mars rover draw its electrical power from a nuclear generator or solar arrays? It seems local residents of Cape Canaveral, Florida, [will have an opportunity to weigh in on NASA’s choice|http://www.floridatoday.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060927/NEWS02/609270357]. The launch is set for 2009, sometime between September and November, on an Atlas 5 rocket. NASA safety studies with the Department of Energy show there is a 1 in 420 chance of an accident early in the flight resulting in a release of radioactive material over the sky above Cape Canaveral. The type of nuclear generator is similar to those launched on past space missions, including New Horizons probe launched earlier this year bound for Pluto and the 1997 Cassini probe now orbiting Saturn. Past protests have not stopped NASA from launching probes in the past. The type of plutonium fuel used is not the highly explosive kind used in nuclear warheads, but rather a grade that is only dangerous if reduced to fine dust. According to NASA, the generators are subjected to intense testing to ensure they will hold up to violent rocket explosions, and pellets of plutonium, much like ceramic, are designed not to break up.

!! A Plant That Can Smell

No, not a stinky plant, [a plant that actually detects odors|http://www.nwfdailynews.com/articleArchive/sep2006/parasiticweedsniffs.php] from nearby plants.

!! Intel Processor News

Intel lets us know what’s in store for tomorrow and beyond.

!!! Intel Announces Quad-Core Processor

Intel’s Core 2 Quad is two Core 2 Duo processors slapped together — literally. Combined into a single multi-chip package, the first processor, targeted at gamers and content creators, will be shipped in November and will be called the Intel Core 2 Extreme quad-core processor. Intel claims it will deliver 70 percent faster integer performance over todayĆ­s Core 2 Extreme dual-core processor. Intel’s mainstream quad-core processor will ship in the first quarter of 2007 and will be called the Intel Core 2 Quad processor. For servers, Intel will introduce a new low-power, 50-watt Quad-Core Intel Xeon processor L5310 for [blade servers|http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blade_server] in the first quarter of 2007.

!!! Intel Provides Peek at Processing Future: Processor with 80 Cores

At the Intel Developer Forum this week, Intel [unveiled its disclosed it’s Tera-Scale Research Chips|http://www.intel.com/pressroom/archive/releases/20060926corp_b.htm], an Intel five-year plan aimed at delivering a single processor chip containing 80 processor cores with the ability to enable a trillion floating-point operations per second on a single chip. In computer terminology, it will deliver 1 teraflop of performance. Ten years ago, the [ASCI red supercomputer|http://www.sandia.gov/ASCI/Red/RedFacts.htm] at [Sandia National Laboratories|http://www.sandia.gov/] delivered 1 [teraflop|Trillion Floating Operations Per Second] — the first to do so — using 4,510 computing nodes. Each of the 80 floating-point cores will run at 3.16[GHz|Gigahertz] and will utilize numerous innovations including:

Read more [here|http://www.intel.com/technology/techresearch/terascale].