One of the nation’s most reliable customers for supercomputing power has been Science Applications International Corp., based in McLean, Virginia. In the past, it’s partnered with institutions like the San Diego Supercomputer Center, which currently operates the world’s #151 supercomputer, working on projects like simulating the possible origins of solar flares.
SAIC’s major customer has been the U.S. Dept. of Defense. Since 1999, the DoD’s High Performance Computing Modernization Program (HPCMP) has tried to align itself with projects that would make computing power less expensive and more accessible to DoD engineers and scientists. And since the project began back then, its roots – naturally – lie outside the cloud, with supercomputers.
The first signs of a genuine movement to adopt cloud technologies past the curiosity-satisfaction stage have come this year, with the General Services Administration awarding more contracts to government agencies for making migrations to the cloud. The problem, which agencies don’t mind admitting openly, has been that there’s no template for cloud migrations which agencies can follow. Frankly, no one quite knows for sure whether the existing migrations are successful yet, or even complete.
HPCMP needs some help, which may now be on the way. This morning, SAIC announced a new and potentially lucrative partnership with Red Hat. Despite Linux’ dominance among the world’s Top 500 supercomputers (at least as of last June), RHEL runs on only six of them. This partnership is not about supercomputing. It will move Red Hat’s engineers into SAIC’s premiere Advanced Computer Engineering (ACE) laboratory in Charleston, South Carolina, to collaborate with scientists and government officials on ways to deploy more efficient, less expensive equipment using open source, cloud technologies.
“SAIC and Red Hat bring commercial patterns and practices specifically engineered to reduce cost, enable more agile service delivery and allow DoD customers to overcome barriers to cloud adoption, including shortage of skills, lack of interoperability within existing information technology architectures and complexities of service-level objective achievement,” reads a statement from Red Hat today. “ACE Laboratory collaborators will learn how Red Hat’s modular and open technology portfolio, designed to run consistently across physical servers, virtual platforms and private and public clouds, can be integrated into their cloud architecture.”
SAIC has helped design the infrastructure for United States armed forces worldwide, including command and control systems, joint task force intercommunications systems, and chemical warfare incident response management systems.
For the Central US, it’s a matter of when, not if.
The magnitude 5.8 quake that struck central Virginia on Tuesday was felt from Florida to Maine to Missouri. â€œThis is probably the most widely felt quake in American history, even though it was less than a 6.0,â€ says Michael Blanpied, a USGS seismologist DISCOVER contacted after the event. The reason for this intensity is that the East Coast, like the controversial New Madrid Seismic Zone in the central U.S., is located amidst old faults and cold rocks in the middle of the North American tectonic plate, and seismic waves travel disturbingly far in such stiff, cold rock.
We would do well to take a hint from Tuesday’s expansive shake-up. It’s lucky that it struck in rural America. But a similar tremblor in the crowded cities of the central U.S. above the New Madrid zone is a matter of when, not if. And the region is woefully unprepared to mitigate the damage, as Amy Barth explores in a piece from an upcoming issue of DISCOVER:
The disastrous winter of 1811â€“12 is the stuff of legend in the Midwest. In the span of a few months, three major earthquakes rocked Missouri, Tennessee, and Arkansas, violently shaking 230,000 square miles stretching from St. Louis to Memphis. Witnesses claimed that the ground rolled in waves several feet high and the Mississippi River flowed backward. Some reports described buckling sidewalks in Charleston, South Carolina, and tremors that reached as far as Quebec. Had seismographs been available at the time, scientists believe those tremors would have registered magnitudes at least as great as the 7.0 quake that devastated Haiti in 2010 and possibly as high as 8.0. These would place them among the worst in U.S. history.
(1) First of all, in case you didn’t feel it, a magnitude 5.8 earthquake struck Mineral, Virginia at 1:51 pm.
(2) It was felt for miles around—as far away as Boston, with more reports pouring into the USGS every minute.
(3) The shaking lasted around 30 seconds in Washington, DC, according to the NYT liveblog, where the Capitol and the White House evacuated. No damage or injuries have been reported yet. The video above is the only one so far to show any damage.
(4) It’s the biggest earthquake to hit the East Coast since the 1890s—there was a 5.9 in 1897 in Virginia—and the third-largest since the USGS started keeping records; a 7.3 in 1886 in Charleston, South Carolina was the strongest.
(5) Judging from preliminary USGS data, the quake was unusually shallow—about 6 kilometers below the surface—which may explain why the shaking was so dramatic.
(6) Additionally, the texture of the Earth’s crust on the East Coast may partly explain why shaking was felt so far away: the Maryland Science Center quoted Lucy Jones, a seismologist with the USGS, saying that on “the East Coast you have this old hard, cold crust that does a lovely job of transmitting the waves.”
(7) In the storm of tweets that went out after the quake, @Stanford noted that Boston is actually at a higher risk of devastating quakes than San Francisco. While the city by the bay obviously has more and more severe quakes, the city is better prepared; Boston has more old buildings, constructed before modern earthquake codes went into effect.
(8) The epicenter was not far from the North Anna nuclear power plant, operated by Dominion Power. Following an automated protocol, the plant’s two reactors safely went offline when the quake struck, reports AOLEnergy, and diesel generators took over providing power until they can be started up again.
(9) Gizmodo is collecting videos taken during the quake: check out their gallery here.
(10) If you felt the quake, tell the USGS about it here, and tell us in the comments below.
Relations have been more testy than usual between the Environmental Protection Agency and mountaintop removal coal miners since last April, when EPA issued new rules to crack down on the practice. This week the agency went one step furtherâ€”a step has never taken before. EPA revoked an already-approved permit for a mountaintop removal coal mine in West Virginia.
The decision to revoke the permit for Arch Coal Inc.’s Spruce Mine No. 1 in West Virginia’s rural Logan County marks the first time the EPA has withdrawn a water permit for a mining project that had previously been issued. It’s also only the second time in the 39-year history of the federal Clean Water Act that the agency has canceled a water permit for a project of any kind after it was issued, according to the agency. [Wall Street Journal]
The mine, located south of the West Virginia capital of Charleston, has been fighting to begin operation for more than a dozen years.
The Obama EPA began looking more closely at the Spruce Mine in September 2009.Â But debate over the proposed operation dates back to the late 1990s, when then-U.S. District Judge Charles H. Haden II issued an injunction that blocked the mine, which then was proposed for more than 3,000 acres. After the Haden ruling, the company reduced the size of its proposal and the operation underwent much more intense scrutiny, in the form of a full-blown Environmental Impact Statement by the Corps of Engineers, which approved the new mining configuration in January 2007 [Charleston Gazette].
EPA, however,Â says that evidence gathered since that 2007 permit (issued under the more lax Bush administration EPA) shows that the mine would cause enough damage to the streams, watershed, and habitat in the area to prevent it from passing the Clean Water Act’s muster.
We already knew the Obama EPA would be discriminating in allowing any new mountaintop removal mines. But now that EPA has taken the rare step of revoking a permit, are other such already-permitted projects in danger of losing their right to operate?
The EPA’s decision could affect dozens of other mining projects across Appalachia, where firms have been blasting the peaks off mountains for years to reach coal seams and then depositing the remaining rubble in surrounding valleys. While the federal government issued permits for hundreds of these activities under the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations, the EPA adopted new environmental guidelines in April and is now reviewing 33 other pending permits. [Washington Post]