Harvard Web site hacked with pro-Syria message

Harvard University's home page was hacked earlier today in what was described as a "sophisticated" attack that briefly defaced the site with a message accusing the U.S. of supporting the uprising against Syria's president.

Accompanying an image of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was a message that said "SyRiAn ELeCTronic ArMy WeRe HeRE," according to a screenshot captured by the BBC. The defacement included an anti-U.S. diatribe that accused the U.S. of supporting a "policy of killing" in Syria, the BCC reported:

Do you support the war on Syria? If … Read more

Searching for cheap solar cells in computer models

Researchers have developed a way to find novel solar cell materials: throw computers at the problem.

In a paper published this week in Nature Communications, the researchers said their method of sifting through millions of possible molecules has yielded a compound that holds promise as a material for organic solar cells.

The Harvard University-led project, which started more than two years ago, is a collaboration with IBM to manage and supply the computing resources for the World Community Grid, where people supply idle PC time to contribute to research projects lacking sufficient compute resources.

Traditional solar cells are made from … Read more

Harvard, Mitre cook up programmable nanoprocessor

Researchers at Harvard University and Mitre have detailed the architecture for a programmable nanoprocessor built out of ultra-small nanowires.

The nanoprocessor, outlined in a Nature article published this week, is formed of 496 non-volatile field effect transistor (FET) nodes arranged in a 960-micrometer-square area, overlaid with semiconductor materials.

"This work represents a quantum jump forward in the complexity and function of circuits built from the bottom up," said Harvard's Charles Lieber, who led the research, in a statement. "[The work] demonstrates that this bottom-up paradigm, which is distinct from the way commercial circuits are built today, … Read more

Sudan under anti-war satellite surveillance

The Satellite Sentinel Project, launched today, will be monitoring Sudan from above and sharing information with the world in near real-time in an effort to deter violence.

The oil-rich southern region of Sudan is poised to hold a referendum on January 9 that could decide whether Sudan remains one country, or becomes politically divided into north and south entities. Many expect that there will be violence leading up to the vote, as well as after it, and that the Sudan could once again descend into chaos as it did during its 20-year war in which an estimated 2 million people … Read more

Hackers targeting human rights, indie media groups

Hackers are increasingly hitting the Web sites of human rights and independent media groups in an attempt to silence them, says a new study released this week by Harvard University's Berkman Center for Internet & Society.

Based on a survey of 45 groups, the report "Distributed Denial of Service Attacks Against Independent Media and Human Rights Sites" found that a large percentage said they've been targeted by distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks from those who disagree with their viewpoints. The Web sites typically have been knocked offline for short periods of time but in some cases have … Read more

Google's Ngram Viewer: A time machine for wordplay

The word "spiderman" appeared in books in the 1920s, long before the famed Marvel superhero debuted in the early '60s. And the term "smartphone" was in use during the first decade of the 20th century, a century before anyone picked up their first iPhone.

How do I know all this? By using a new tool from Google called the Ngram Viewer. Launched by the search giant yesterday, this tool lets you trace the usage of a word or phrase during the past five centuries--five centuries!--by seeing how often it's appeared in books over that … Read more

Researchers hope to build autonomous 'Batmobile'

If you think the Batmobile is just something from the movies or comic books, researchers at MIT and Harvard University want to change your mind.

As part of a long-term project, the researchers are working on developing a computer that they hope could one day mimic the visualization systems of the human brain. And while there could be many practical applications for such research, one of the sexiest is a potential autonomous vehicle that could use its visualization acumen to navigate roadside dangers or impassable terrain.

According to Nicolas Pinto, a Ph.D. student specializing in brain visualization research at … Read more

Singularity University seasons executives for the future

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif.--While I'm sure that many of the people in the room were familiar with prediction markets, I wonder how many of them had ever seen an active one up close and personal before.

Providing that sense of deep immersion, of course, was exactly the point of an exercise run Monday during a session of Singularity University's executive program by Melanie Swan, a Silicon Valley hedge fund manager. Swan, the principal of MS Futures Group, had tasked small groups of students with coming up with world-changing product ideas and then simultaneously had the students vote in … Read more

Gossip: 'Social Network' filming will row across the pond

We've been hearing a few sneaky tips from folks within earshot of the Boston, Mass., set of "The Social Network," the Columbia Pictures movie about the contested origins of Facebook. This week, the film crew has been on the Charles River working on scenes in which Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, the identical twins who had a lawsuit against Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, are depicted at a Harvard crew practice.

That Boston Globe report about the Harvard heavyweight crew team getting cast in the background? Not quite.

Ivy League athletic restrictions bar current athletes from being film extras, … Read more

The factor factor, part 2

In the first part of this series, I claimed that a great secret in the microprocessor industry largely determines whether new products succeed or fail.

I noted that this secret shouldn't be a secret at all because many people (including myself) have talked about it over the years, but clearly a lot of people are in the dark because they continually disregard it and develop products that are doomed.

I gave several examples of products that failed because their creators didn't know the great secret. Those products included RISC processors, media processors, and intelligent RAM chips, in which processor cores were integrated with memory to eliminate one of the great bottlenecks in computer performance.

During my eight years at Microprocessor Report, I covered the markets for media processors, 3D-graphics chips, network processors, and what I coined extreme processors--chips with large numbers of simple cores running in parallel. Many of these chips were cheaper, easier to design, and twice as fast as competing products--and still failed.

However, some did succeed. The critical factor that made the difference in most of these cases is the essence of the so-called secret.

One of those successes is the graphics processing unit, or GPU.

I was reminded again of the secret at Nvidia's recent GPU Technology Conference, where many of the talks dealt with GPU computing.

(Disclosure: I recently wrote a technical white paper for Nvidia.)

Although the GPU field dates back only five or six years, GPUs have already earned a place alongside CPUs. Each is clearly superior for certain kinds of applications.

This is true in spite of the fact that GPUs aren't nearly as easy to program as CPUs. Like other forms of parallel programming, GPU programming requires new hardware (the GPU itself), significant new extensions for programming languages, and a different mindset for programmers--one that simply wasn't part of standard computer-science curriculum for most of the last 50 years.

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