Tuesday March 26, 2019
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Lessons from Beijing: Why India must rethink industries, technology

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As I write this, I spot over a dozen Chinese men outside my Beijing hotel room wearing air purifier masks on their faces – the price they paid for technology. It stirred some alarming thoughts about where India is heading, and why India has a need to rethink each of its steps towards technological advancement.

In this world of homogenization, all metros seem the same, Berlin to Beijing – glittering malls, tall building, fast food and speedy cars.

Beijing was also no different from Delhi except for Mandarin on its billboards and it gave the look of what Delhi could be few years ahead — high speed metros, better looking cars, better looking buildings, cleaner and orderly streets, but men much petite.

As high as my expectations were, from a country pioneering in technology, to be battling its pollution levels and other effects of technology, the country seemed to have lost equally bad in its struggle.

Living in Delhi, pollution was something which I could see around, but Beijing also got me to experience it. As soon as I stepped out of the airport, my nostrils were flaring up, being an asthma fighter, immediately finding it difficult to breathe. Although there have been attempts from the Chinese government — denying registrations to older cars and factories — to fight their pollution monster, the issue seems to be not all that simple to settle the fight.

Some of China’s pollution fighting technologies earlier, which ran on coal-generated electricity, thereby contributed to higher carbon emissions although air quality would get better – a technology to fight another technology.

Result was the sight of a huge population – young to old – donning air purifiers, attempting to breathe cleaner air. Although these air purifiers could filter particulate contaminants in the air there is no evidence that these filters could help in long-term.

According to the US Department of State Air Quality Monitoring Program’s ‘Mission China’, the air quality index for Beijing on any average 24 hours of a day shows “unhealthy for sensitive groups” – nearly as unhealthy as smoking 40 cigarettes a day, as per a study.

The classic Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City shots at night that I sought as a tourist were rather hazy owing to the smog and were tough to crack them right.

The average PM2.5 levels figured between 101-150, as against the safe 0-50 level, and even touched the ‘”unhealthy” level (151-200) at night. These levels, according to the department, means “active children and adults, and people with respiratory disease, such as asthma, should limit prolonged outdoor exertion”

India, which is still on its road to technological advancement, aims at replicating the Chinese ways, be it “Make in India”, be it attracting Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) for its industries and businesses. But its capital city Delhi’s air pollution already has touched “hazardous” levels.

As per the Delhi Pollution Control Committee, the PM2.5 levels in Delhi’s air are always above the prescribed safe levels of 60 with an average of 100 units of particulate matter pollution in the air, reaching levels as high as 300 during winters. Delhi has bagged the spot of its competitor Beijing, which was considered to be the most polluted city for long.

According to a World Health Organization study last year the concentration of PM2.5 was higher in Delhi than in Beijing, proving Delhi to have the filthiest air in the world.

Shouldn’t these be indicators for India to rethink technology, industries?

Beijing has now assumed its path of green energy, and shut some of its conventional coal-run industries, electricity out of coal to adopt gas-run methods and other non-conventional methods and has improved its air quality much better than before.

It was a much needed move for Beijing, to have cleaner means of transportation. A simple move to have “only bicycle” track has helped Beijing a lot – persuading many to use their bicycles or electric bikes. On a majority of the days, there were more bicycles than there would be cars on the road, a solution Delhi needs.

Whereas studies on Delhi have been bringing out even horrific angles to the city’s pollution. The most recent study by University of Surrey shows that Delhi’s air has a “toxic blend” of geography, poor energy resources and unfavourable weather that dangerously “boosts” its pollution.

 

(Bhavana Akella,IANS)

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Intel and Cray Collaborate With U.S. Government, Aims for Nation’s Fastest Computer

The world's current most powerful machine, the Summit supercomputer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, contains chips from International Business Machines Corp. and Nvidia.

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Intel
This Jan. 1, 2018, file photo shows an Intel logo on the box containing an HP desktop computer on sale at a Costco in Pittsburgh. VOA

A U.S. government-led group is working with chipmaker Intel and Cray to develop and build the nation’s fastest computer by 2021 for conducting nuclear weapons and other research, officials said Monday.

The Department of Energy and the Argonne National Laboratory near Chicago said they were working on a supercomputer dubbed Aurora with Intel, the world’s biggest supplier of data center chips, and Cray, which specializes in the ultra-fast machines.

The $500 million contract for the project calls on the companies to deliver a computer with so-called exaflop performance — that is, being able to perform 1 quintillion (1,000,000,000,000,000,000) calculations per second.

Computer
It also heightens the stakes in a race in which the United States, China, the European Union and Japan have all announced plans to build exaflop-capable supercomputers. VOA

If the project succeeds, Aurora would represent nearly an order of magnitude leap over existing machines that feature so-called petaflop performance, capable of doing 1 quadrillion (1,000,000,000,000,000) calculations a second.

It also heightens the stakes in a race in which the United States, China, the European Union and Japan have all announced plans to build exaflop-capable supercomputers.

One of Aurora’s primary functions would be simulating nuclear blasts, a pillar of weapons development since the ban of live detonation testings.

Aurora will be built with artificial intelligence capabilities for projects such as developing better battery materials and helping the Department of Veterans Affairs prevent suicides, Rick Stevens, an associate lab director with Argonne overseeing the exascale computing project, said during a news
briefing.

The project is a win for Intel, which will supply its Xeon CPU chips and Optane memory chips for Aurora.

FILE - The Nvidia booth is shown at the E3 2017 Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles, June 13, 2017.
The Nvidia booth is shown at the E3 2017 Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles, June 13, 2017. VOA

Intel has been fending off rival U.S. chipmaker Nvidia Corp.’s rise in the chip content of supercomputers as the machines take on more artificial intelligence work. Nvidia’s chips are found in five of the world’s current top 10 supercomputers, though the Nvidia chips are found alongside chips from its rivals, according to TOP500, which ranks the machines.

The world’s current most powerful machine, the Summit supercomputer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, contains chips from International Business Machines Corp. and Nvidia.

The source of chips for supercomputers has become a factor in trade tensions between the United States and China. The world’s third-fastest supercomputer — the Sunway TaihuLight in China — has chips developed domestically in China.

Also Read: U.S. Tariffs on China Could Remain Same, Even After Reaching The Trade Deal

Chirag Dekate, an analyst with Gartner who studies the supercomputing market, said that despite the small contract size relative to Intel’s overall revenue, the work done on Aurora will eventually filter down to the company’s commercial customers.

“It’s not just a jingoistic race between the U.S. and China,” Dekate said. “The innovations that Intel is developing here will percolate down to other parts of its business.” (VOA)