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How To Build a Supercomputer In 24 Hours 161

Posted by timothy
from the foxconn-this-ain't dept.
An anonymous reader writes with a link to this "time lapse video of students and postdocs at the University of Zurich constructing the zBox4 supercomputer. The machine has a theoretical compute capacity of ~1% of the human brain and will be used for simulating the formation of stars, planets and galaxies." That rack has "3,072 2.2GHz Intel Xeon cores and over 12TB of RAM." Also notable: for once, several of the YouTube comments are worth reading for more details on the construction and specs.
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How To Build a Supercomputer In 24 Hours

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  • Title could be (Score:4, Insightful)

    by hcs_$reboot (1536101) on Sunday November 04, 2012 @03:24AM (#41870773)
    "How to spend $800,000 in one day"
    Price, from comments:

    Just under 750,000 Swiss Francs, or about $800,000

  • Be Professional (Score:2, Insightful)

    by SpaghettiPattern (609814) on Sunday November 04, 2012 @04:39AM (#41870983)
    Be Professional about the whole operation:
    1) Brag about how you will succeed well before knowing what it's all about.
    2) Immediately after, seek the lowest standards you should comply with.
    3) Then, study rhetorics in order to getting away with even lower standards.
    4) Subsequently explore the deep and dark lows and lower your standards to the absolute minimum.
    5) Hiring time. Get yourself people capable of realizing your preposterous proposition and seek the lowest fee to pay.
    6) With a bit of delay -being late is after all quite chique- announce a result and plan a party.
    7) Not too late after, make sure the bitmonkey comes up with a result of some kind. Be sure NOT to appreciate his efforts in meeting your egocentric targets.
    8) Be smug about the whole adventurous undertaking. Well, you were already from the start, weren't you?
    9) Be a celebrity for making headlines with sub-mediocrity.
  • by hardtofindanick (1105361) on Sunday November 04, 2012 @04:39AM (#41870985)
    only seems to bother EE majors and everyone else seems to be immune to it.
  • Re:Also notable: (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 04, 2012 @05:14AM (#41871147)

    Racist comments don't routinely stay modded up on slashdot as they do on many parts on YouTube. Use of dubious debating techniques such as the strawman usually gets noticed here. Unpopular viewpoints are often modded up to +5 Interesting if they are sufficiently well argued.

    Slashdot ain't what it used to be, but it still has standards.

  • Re:Pretty sure (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AK Marc (707885) on Sunday November 04, 2012 @05:28AM (#41871189)

    So these things happen on different (connected) machines if you will. Every neuron is a processor in itself anyway.

    I think that's part of why computing power greatly surpassed humans long ago, and will not reach human levels for many years. The brain isn't digital. It holds an "infinite" number of analogue states, simultaneously. With massive errors and gaps filled in with guesses made from other parts, without even an minor error check that indicates that he information being determined to be "true" is 100% interpolation with 0% fact or actual memory. The very idea of an error check that was wrong more than right and kept no indication of where the result actually came from is so incredible that nobody would ever create a computer capable of operating that way. It won't be until we have computers many millions times more powerful where we can remake a "perfect" brain, until then, we'll never be able to match the capabilities of the human brain.

  • Re:Pretty sure (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 04, 2012 @06:27AM (#41871341)

    Doing equivalent computation to a human brain, and simulating a human brain, are two very different problems.

    You have to solve a non-linear coupled differential equation at 1MHz to simulate a 5kHz sawtooth wave generator in Spice. It's about 30 MFLOPS. But, functionally, all you're doing is generating a 5kHz sawtooth wave, which is 15 kFLOPS of work. This is a 2000:1 efficiency difference between simulating an analog system and running a direct digital equivalent implementation.

    So divide that 100 PFLOPS by the fundamental inefficiencies of simulating the analog domain in the digital domain, and you get a more reasonable figure for when a computer can functionally compete with the human brain.

  • by Barny (103770) <bakadamage-slashdot@yahoo.com> on Sunday November 04, 2012 @07:59AM (#41871549) Homepage Journal

    I will ask the inevitable questions, as a system builder.

    How many parts were DOA?

    How many failed inside of the first month?

  • Re:Pretty sure (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 04, 2012 @08:37AM (#41871637)

    We are getting closer, but expect to wait at least a decade or two before people start talking seriously about a full human brain simulation.

    Boats and submarines don't "simulate" fish, but they still swim.

    Airplanes don't "simulate" birds, but they still fly.

    Artifical intelligence may not need to "simulate" the brain to reach human level.

    Just sayin'.

  • Re:Pretty sure (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Shavano (2541114) on Sunday November 04, 2012 @05:52PM (#41874869)

    That's a rather simplistic analysis. The problem is that we don't even know how the brain fully works. If, for instance, neurons make use of quantum properties (a very real possibility), then classical computers may be hard-pressed to replicate even a mouse brain.

    I have only one thing to say about that: Pfffffbbbbbt! The brain is an electrochemical machine that works on a macroscopic scale. It can't distinguish and act upon the quantum state of a a particle any more than a hedgehog can sing opera.

    All speculation on the brain possibly having quantum properties is complete nonsense based on equivocation and quasi-religious hoo-hah.

    We don't know whether quantum computers are more powerful than classical computers. Many believe that they are, but we have not found proof of this. They could be anywhere from equal to exponentially faster, and you know what exponentially faster means with numbers like what you've been pulling.

    Your entire post is based on the premise that a neuron and a transistor are even comparable. That's one hell of an assumption.

    If you're going to discuss the computing power of a human brain, you are by definition comparing neurons to switches. It's one electrical machine to another electrical machine. Whatever the right number is that approximates the function of a neuron with a number of transistors, there IS a number. I could have the number wrong. But I'm not wrong in principle.

Real Programmers don't write in FORTRAN. FORTRAN is for pipe stress freaks and crystallography weenies. FORTRAN is for wimp engineers who wear white socks.

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