Science and Technology links (December 4th 2021)

  1. It used to be that all the exciting new processors came from Intel and AMD, and they were meant for your PC. The mobile revolution changed that: it lead to the production of fantastic processors that used little energy. We are now moving back into laptops and servers. The leading supplier of servers is probably Amazon: if you want to run servers for your business, your first choice is often Amazon and its cloud computing infrastructure. And Amazon now makes their own processors. Initially, they made low-cost chips that were secondary to Intel and AMD powerful processors. Amazon released its latest processor, Graviton 3. It is a much wider and deeper chip:

    The N1 core used in the Graviton2 chip had an instruction fetch unit that was 4 to 8 instructions wide and 4 wide instruction decoder that fed into an 8 wide issue unit that included two SIMD units, two load/store units, three arithmetic units, and a branch unit. With the Perseus N2 core used in the Graviton3, there is an 8 wide fetch unit that feeds into a 5 wide to 8 wide decode unit, which in turn feeds into a 15 wide issue unit, which is basically twice as wide as that on the N1 core used in the Graviton2. The vector engines have twice as much width (and support for BFloat16 mixed precision operations) and the load/store. arithmetic, and branch units are all doubled up, too.

    It feels like we are witnessing a revolution in processors. Not only are corporations like Apple and Amazon making their own chips… they appear to match Intel in raw power.

  2. Despite generous Danish social policies, family influence on important child outcomes in Denmark is about as strong as it is in the United States.
  3. Clearing senescent (old) cells appears to also clear out diabetes (in mice).
  4. South Korea is building a self-sustaining floating city.
  5. A supplement based on alpha-ketoglutarate appears to have strong rejuvenation effects (in human beings).
  6. Metformin is a commonly used drug which is believed to have some anti-aging properties. However some research suggested that metformin could blunt the beneficial effects of exercise. A recent clinical trial indicates that these fears are unwarranted.
  7. Biological aging (senescence) could have evolved when animals first colonized the land, from the sea.
  8. Your favorite colour reveals nothing about your personality.

Published by

Daniel Lemire

A computer science professor at the University of Quebec (TELUQ).

9 thoughts on “Science and Technology links (December 4th 2021)”

      1. The review is a nice summary of the pros and cons of his stance. I guess you know it already, but it was new to me.

  1. I used to be so excited by these different companies designing their own chips. Amazon with G1 and G2, Microsoft Azure with their FPGA accelerators, the Google/YouTube custom video transcoding silicon, etc.

    Now it’s starting to feel like people inventing a new type of stapler while on a sinking ship. Well, I guess more like inventing amazing chips while on a sinking ship, or while working for the USSR or something.

    The explosion in strange censorship is deeply troubling. When AWS kicked Parler off their cloud, I was stunned. It’s still not clear how Parler is different from Twitter or Facebook, in terms of percentage or number of violent users, or supporters of violence or what have you. Apparently you can’t have a social network in America unless you’re willing and able to vigorously monitor and censor your millions of users, according to some unknown, unstated standard. I had no idea that this was the situation, that you literally aren’t allowed to compete with the incumbents unless you can spend millions of dollars a year just on censorship ops.

    So now I don’t care about AWS and their chips. I think it’s sad that any engineers are willing to work for Amazon under these conditions, where mundane non-leftist discourse is apparently not allowed. At least Amazon isn’t yet censoring non-leftist books, though there are constant efforts to get them to do so… And AWS’s ridiculous propaganda endorsing the disturbing BLM movement/violence was so offensive that I diverted major purchases to other firms.

    Since I wouldn’t be able to use the new chips if I wanted to host something as mundane as social network that doesn’t monitor and censor its users, their performance is moot. Those guys should work elsewhere.

    1. Now it’s starting to feel like people inventing a new type of stapler while on a sinking ship. Well, I guess more like inventing amazing chips while on a sinking ship, or while working for the USSR or something.

      The USSR was pretty bad at inventing and producing new computer chips.

      I do not think you need to care particularly about Amazon, Apple or any of these guys to find the technology that they are producing interesting. I am not advocating people use Amazon products or services (I am neutral).

      Regarding business decisions, I think that it is good to favour vendor independence: be very concerned that your business depends on a single provider. I have seen entire startups wiped out because Facebook changed the terms of service.

      1. I agree about Amazon, since AWS offers valid and useful services. I guess I still like to read about their technology and engineering. Netflix too. Facebook is actually the depressing one for me – it’s such a waste of engineering talent to build a massive compute infrastructure so that idiots can post selfies. Same with all the AI people there building better ad targeting. Why? Why not do something else?

        On the censorship front, Facebook recently crossed over into tagging new scientific research as “false” for the first time we know of. They partner with leftist activist groups to censor “misinformation”. One of those groups is called Climate Feedback, and they did something we’ve never seen: they declared a new paper “false” without even reading it. I’m not sure if they’ve ever done it before, or this was the first time. The paper argued for a new estimate of solar forcing in Northern Hemisphere surface temperatures, an upward revision (https://arxiv.org/abs/2105.12126). It’s a long story, but the activist at Climate Feedback thinks that humanity already knows everything we need to know about climate change on this planet, and even specifics like solar forcing, even focused on specific hemispheres. He thinks that a very young and small science is “settled” maybe 20 years into its current methodological framework (knowing the recent history of computing would also argue against such silliness – climate scientists have only had access to powerful modeling computers for 20 years at most, less for some teams). It’s a stunning situation, true unfalsifiability and preemptive rejection of new scientific research if the findings seem to contradict one’s existing, politically driven beliefs. All sorts of things didn’t occur to him, like why climate scientists would be conducting any research on solar forcing if it’s settled, why a peer reviewed journal would publish revised estimates of solar forcing or any other aspect of climate if such estimates were somehow knowably false, why climate science journals still publish papers and continue to exist, and so forth. This was a watershed moment. Facebook is now censoring new science, tagging it as “false”, and reducing the reach of users who post it.

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