Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Headline Science

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Headline Science

Article excerpt

November 2014, Current News in Science Research

Cluster Computer Speeds Big Data Research

Its name is Rivanna, and it's the University of Virginia's new $2.4 million Cray computing cluster, a high-performance machine--really a group of linked high-power computers--designed to greatly enhance data-intensive research at the university.

"This cluster will help us advance our research in many different fields," said university president Teresa Sullivan at a launch event in September.

Those fields include computationally intensive areas of astronomy, molecular modeling in pharmacology, atmospheric chemistry simulations, high-energy physics data sorting, genome modeling, ocean currents modeling, a range of engineering problems, data mining, and large-scale text analysis. One goal is to attract vibrant new faculty already doing computationally intensive research.

Rivanna combines massive processing capacity with large memory capacity to help the university compete with other research universities increasingly focused on the big data and big computing projects that attract federal funding.

The new Cray cluster will provide the combined computational power of 4,800 individual central processing units, said astronomer John Hawley, associate dean for the sciences, and 1,400 times more disk space than a PC. "It's the same as devoting 4,800 PCs to a single big task, all linked together to rapidly share data," he said. "The new cluster is almost an order of magnitude more powerful than the one we've been using, with 10 times the storage space."

Hawley plans to use Rivanna for modeling the evolving action of magnetic gases that swirl around black holes, his area of astronomy. Other early users include Michael Shirts in chemical engineering, who will investigate molecular-level drug design, and Stephen Turner in public health sciences, who will use the cluster for genetics research. (University of Virginia)

Scientists Unveil First Semiaquatic Dino

Scientists are unveiling what appears to be the first truly semiaquatic dinosaur, Spinosaurus aegyptiacus. New fossils of the massive Cretaceous-era predator reveal it adapted to life in the water some 95 million years ago, providing the most compelling evidence yet of a dinosaur able to live and hunt in an aquatic environment. The fossils also indicate that Spinosaurus was the largest known predatory dinosaur to roam the Earth, measuring more than nine feet longer than the world's largest Tyrannosaurus rex specimen. These findings are published online in the journal Science and also appear in National Geographic magazine.


An international research team found that Spinosaurus developed various previously unknown aquatic adaptations. The team had analyzed new fossils uncovered in the Moroccan Sahara and a partial Spinosaurus skull and other remains housed in museum collections around the world. They also studied records and images from the first reported Spinosaurus discovery in Egypt more than 100 years ago. According to lead author Nizar Ibrahim from the University of Chicago: "Working on this animal was like studying an alien from outer space."


The aquatic adaptations of Spinosaurus differ significantly from earlier members of the spinosaurid family that lived on land but were known to eat fish. These adaptations include:

* Small nostrils located in the middle of the skull, allowing Spinosaurus to breathe when part of its head was submerged.

* Giant, slanted teeth that interlocked at the front of the snout, well-suited for catching fish.

* A long neck and trunk that shifted the dinosaur's center of mass forward. This made walking on two legs on land nearly impossible but facilitated movement in water.

* Powerful forelimbs with curved, bladelike claws. These claws were ideal for hooking or slicing slippery prey. …

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