IBM and Switzerland's Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) have teamed up to create the most ambitious project in the field of neuroscience: to simulate a mammalian brain on the world's most powerful supercomputer, IBM's Blue Gene.
Most theoretical neuroscientists have tried to simulate the brain using artificial neural networks. "That is not our goal," says Henry Markram, the professor leading the project. Markram wants to simulate the brain at every level of detail, even going down to molecular and gene expression levels of processing. At EPFL's Brain and Mind Institute, every facet of the brain is being examined and modelled.
"Blue Gene is by far the fastest supercomputing system in the world, giving scientists access to unprecedented levels of computing power," says Tilak Agerwala, vice president of systems at IBM Research. "What matters is not the power itself, but how it is applied in innovative ways that have the potential to transform our understanding of the world and improve our quality of life."
The project will begin by focusing on the neo-cortex -- the part of the brain responsible for higher reasoning, such as language, learning and memory. The neo-cortex makes up about 80 percent of the human brain's total mass, and consists of a number of columns. A neo-cortical column is about the width of a pen and contains about 10,000 neurons and 10,000 times more synapses. "It is considered the fundamental functional element of the neo-cortex," says lead researcher Charles Peck.
To simulate even a single column requires enormous computing power -- power that, until recently, simply hadn't been available. The system that has been installed at EPFL has a peak processing speed of 22.8 teraflops and will use 8,000 processors to replicate just one neo-cortical column. This part of the project is expected to take two to three years.
The Brain and Mind Institute has a more detailed set of data on the workings of the neo-cortical columns than any other research organization in the world. Now that it has the blueprint, it is keen to begin replicating it in silica.
"I started discussing the project with IBM about four years ago when they were just in the beginning of the conception of the Blue Gene," says Markram. "It was a bit early for IBM and ... for my laboratory, but in the meantime, IBM has reached the stage where Blue Gene is a really fine machine."
Blue Brain Project is not just an academic exercise; it will reveal the key computational principles and functions of the brain.
Modeling the neo-cortex is essential to understanding how it processes information, allowing researchers to perform experiments that may otherwise not have been possible. It will also save a lot of animal experiments.
So how important is this project? "I'm probably a bit biased," says Markram, "but I think this is the equivalent of going to the moon."
Indian shopkeeper Purab Gathani should be gearing up for his busiest time of year selling incense for the spring festival season, when crowds of worshippers usually throng Hindu temples. Instead Gathani, whose family has sold Hindu prayer items for three generations, is looking at major losses as the coronavirus outbreak forces the country of 1.3 billion people into lockdown and places of worship shut down. “I never imagined we would close our shop on the eve of a festival,” said Gathani, owner of a store in the western city of Mumbai, which on Wednesday celebrates the Gudi Padwa festival that marks the
The chills were what first tipped me off that something was wrong. It was an early Thursday evening in late February and I was sitting in my office. I normally hit an energy low this time of the day but this was different, as I suddenly felt chilled, absolutely drained of energy, the lightest of achiness in my muscles and joints and a slight pain behind my eyeballs. I went home, took a long hot shower and went to bed early. After a full day of rest, I felt normal enough on Saturday to jump on my bike and enjoy
1. If you go to the hospital for a check-up, plan for the worst-case scenario — having to stay there without returning home. Have a hospital “grab bag” to either take with you or have someone deliver. Recommended items include: T-shirts, shorts and sleeping clothes, socks and underwear, sweater/fleece, personal toiletries and medications, computer (and headphones) and phone plus charging cables, towel, slippers, nail clippers and reading material. Also, have a water bottle/container that nurses can fill up with drinking water. Remember that Taiwanese hospitals generally only provide the most basic of daily necessities. 2. If you test positive, anticipate
When a man surnamed Chen discovered that his wife, surnamed Chang, was having an affair with a foreign national surnamed James, he hired private investigators to catch them having sex. Chen and three private investigators staked out James’ apartment and, when they heard moaning sounds coming from Chang, burst in and filmed the couple in flagrante delicto. A judge later found the pair guilty of adultery and sentenced them to four months in prison, and ordered the foreign national to be deported. Like anywhere, adultery is a daily occurrence in Taiwan, and rarely a day passes when an adulterous couple