Supercomputer takestitle as world's fastest
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- A new Japanese supercomputer has taken the title of world's fastest away from an American computer, zipping along nearly five times faster than its closest competitor.
The NEC Earth Simulator -- which creates a "virtual planet Earth" to predict climate patterns -- tops the 2002 list of fastest supercomputers released Saturday.
"The climate industry in the U.S. has had inferior machines for a number of years," said Jack Dongarra, a University of Tennessee computer science professor who leads the group of researchers that tracks the world's 500 speediest computers. He will present the findings at a June conference in Germany.
The NEC Earth Simulator, as large as four tennis courts, works at a speed of 35,600 gigaflops. A gigaflop equals a billion mathematical operations per second. The top-ranked computer on the list's November 2001 edition, IBM's ASCI White, runs at a speed of 7,226 gigaflops.
A computer capable of calculating complex equations so quickly could save lives and property by predicting typhoons and other severe weather.
"Math gives us this wonderful crystal ball to predict the future," Dongarra said.
Japanese leadervisits war shrine
TOKYO -- Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi paid a surprise visit today to a controversial shrine devoted to Japan's war dead, a move likely to anger Asian neighbors.
Speaking to reporters as he departed for Yasukuni Shrine in central Tokyo, Koizumi said he was visiting the shrine because the "timing is good," Kyodo News reported.
The prime minister's press secretary, Misako Kaji, confirmed Koizumi visited the shrine early this morning.
"He's going to pay his respects," she said.
Koizumi's last trip to the shrine -- where convicted war criminals are worshipped -- infuriated Asian countries with bitter memories of Japanese imperial brutality during World War II. Koizumi last visited the shrine on Aug. 13, two days before the anniversary of Japan's World War II surrender.
The prime minister has been a staunch supporter of official visits to the shrine, which honors about 2.5 million Japanese war dead, including executed criminals such as war-era Prime Minister Hideki Tojo.
Yasukuni Shrine was used by the government during the war to promote nationalism and the conquest of Asia.
Harvard professordownplays dispute
MAHWAH, N.J. -- Harvard scholar Cornel West said the university's president was largely responsible for his move to Princeton but that too much has been made of their dispute.
After giving a lecture Saturday at Ramapo College, West spoke to reporters about "the push of Harvard and pull of Princeton" -- and said Harvard President Lawrence Summers was the push. But he said Harvard's tradition is bigger than any one faculty member or disagreement.
"Thirty years from now, when we're dead and gone, Harvard will still be there," West said. "I'm leaving Harvard with a tear, arriving at Princeton with a smile."
Summers reportedly rebuked West for recording a spoken-word CD and leading a political committee for the Rev. Al Sharpton's possible presidential campaign and not focusing enough on scholarship. He also reportedly accused West of allowing grade inflation in his introductory black studies course.
Some in Harvard's Afro-American studies department have also said Summers did not make a strong statement in support of affirmative action after taking over his post last year.
Hundreds of people attended West's lecture Saturday, a discussion on black intellectualism.