Computers Need Not Contribute to Global Warming

A SiCortex SC648 supercomputer and a Linux cluster of 648 CPU's and a TB of main memory woudl draw about 1,200 watts. That's gotta widen your Carbon Footprint!

Unless, of course, you are a bunch of crazy MIT students withe bicycles, and you've got generators attached to the bikes.

A team of ten MIT students powered a supercomputer for twenty minutes by pedalling bicycles. They duly claimed the world record for human-powered computing (HPC).
An SC648 chip, with six processors on it, draws around 8 watts of power, which compares to a typical notebook computer CPU needing 100 watts, according to SiCortex CEO John Mucci. Other supercomputers draw tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands of watts.

The 10 cyclists pedalled their bikes, set on stands, with the wheels driving dynamos to generate direct current power which was converted into the alternating current needed. The supercomputer modelled a nuclear fusion reaction.

A spokesperson said that the human-powered session produced more computations than took place in the first 3,000 years of civilization. He also said that more arithmetic calculations were computed than were done on the entire earth up to 1960.



Thanks, Trinifar, for the tip!


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And just think of the benefits to PhD candidates and post docs in the supercomputing fields: Come work in my lab and you won't need that gym membership.

Sounds cool. Where do I get my hands on one?

Oh, right. There's one over here, and one over here, and I forgot to check my I/O test running on the SC5832 down the hall. . .BRB.

Actually, humans are pretty inefficient sources of energy. I recon the green house emissions of the production of the amount of food needed to recoup the spent energy surmounts those produced by a gasoline fueled generator used for the same task of running the computers. Of course, if you're going to exercise, you might as well produce electricity while at it.

That's pretty much it, Flaky. Besides the fact that I happen to work at SiCortex (I was the guy who figured out how to configure the partially-populated system used for the demo) I think there's a lot of wasted human energy. It used to bug me that my old stairclimber had to be plugged in to power the console. Here was a device that already has a big human-powered flywheel spinning between two sets of magnets, it was practically a generator already, and it had to be plugged in? I was psyched when I had to have it replaced and the new model was self-powered. Step on the pedals for a few seconds and the console wakes up. Then there was the project in the London underground to generate power from people walking over floor tiles equipped with little piezo cells. My personal favorite idea is to take all of that data-center heat and, instead of wasting even more energy running air conditioners to cool it down again, use the heat to regenerate more power and reduce the total system power input.

These power sources are tiny, but in aggregate they could add up to a noticeable dent in our appetite for electrical power and for all of the other problems that come with that. Reducing our need for energy, capturing more of the energy that's simply thrown away now, and generating the rest more efficiently are all parts of the picture.