The Weekly Round-Up: Do you love your dog or your iPod more?

A new take on what's really man's best friend
Written by The Round-Up, Contributor

A new take on what's really man's best friend

The times, they are a-changing.

When the Round-Up was a young whippersnapper of an editorial assistant in a book publishing house (yeah, old media), the repro house spoke in wonder of a high-res book cover image that weighed in at an incredible 40MB.

These days we happily carry around tiny devices in our pockets capable of holding 40GB and a lot more, while our desktops have multiple cores and endless gee-bees of RAM. It's heady stuff.

However, no matter how many processor cores your computer has or how whizzy your solid-state hard drive, your puny machine is no match for the serious hardware being packed by the clever boffins at Durham University's Institute for Computational Cosmology (ICC).

The institute's supercomputing cluster contains around 800 AMD processor cores and 1,600GB of RAM. Almost enough to play StarCraft II without too much lag then.

It may seem an extravagance in this age of austerity, as our multimillionaire political leaders love to say, but bear in mind that the Institute's scientists are creating galaxies on those hard drives. It takes a bit of grunt.

In Douglas Adams' seminal The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, a race of hyper-intelligent pan-dimensional beings created Deep Thought - a computer so powerful it could calculate the trajectory of every molecule created in the Big Bang.

Now in Durham, scientists are busy doing much the same thing. It's impressive but it is taking a hell of a lot of RAM.

The researchers at the institute are tasking their machines with nothing less than recreating how galaxies are born and evolve over the course of billions of years.

Despite their 800 processor cores, the scientists still run into the occasional technological brick wall. Take storage for example - a lack of hard drive space can be a pain for any budding galaxy architect.

A computer model dark matter's effect on galaxy formation can produce 20TB of data in a single run. Researchers are constantly deleting old unwanted data to free up space on the institute's measly 300TB storage array.

The scientists are also running up against the limits of accurately modelling billions of stars inside a computer. Wouldn't you?

The results are rather beautiful though.

The Round-Up couldn't tell its Andromeda from its Cassiopeia but we can all agree that models such as this one or servers that look as bad-ass as this one are well worth the silicon.

Every year we're inching closer and closer to the vision of the ultimate technologist William Blake who wrote:

"To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour."

He should have just popped up to Durham and looked at the monitor in the physics lab...

'We are living in a material world,' warbled Madonna way back in 1985 and who's the Round-Up to disagree?

Our possessions mean the world to us and personal technology being what it is - expensive, shiny and frequently sexy - our gadgets are nearer and dearer to our bleak, shallow hearts than any other trinkets.

So, how bleak and shallow are our hearts? According to a new survey, we treasure our gadgets more than we treasure our pets and wedding rings. So pretty bleak and pretty shallow then. What worms we are.

Being ever-so-shiny, Apple kit does remarkably well out of the whole thing, surprisingly enough, with the iPod topping the chart.

Based on a survey of 500 Facebook subscribers, 12 per cent of respondents listed it as their most favourite thing ever, with the venerable MP3 player beating the BlackBerry into second place (11.5 per cent) and the iPhone into third (10 per cent).

Our notebooks are fourth in the hearts, just ahead of a living breathing organic thing, with our faithful dog panting eagerly at us from the fifth place podium. Good dog.

The canine species is also celebrating victory over its feline arch enemies with cats proving less popular than iPads. Take that you snooty little garden befoulers.

When it comes to the more traditional 'treasured' possessions, their lack of gadgety-goodness sees them losing out.

Cars only cut the mustard for four per cent of folk (although they do go ever so well with gadgets) and wedding rings are looking miserable and in need of some counselling with a single percentage point of love and adoration.

Stephen Ebbett, spokesperson for online insurer protectyourbubble.com, opined: "As online insurers it is particularly interesting for us to see what people regard as their most prized possession and with the iPod evolving so much since its release it has clearly won a place in our hearts."

(If you want to see where evolution has taken the iPod, check out the latest batch in our photo story here.)

Ebbett added: "Perhaps some of the results show more about the demographics and preferences of Facebook users, with wedding rings and cars so far down the scale, but the iPod definitely seems to still rule as the gadget of choice."

Perhaps, or perhaps it shows how lost we really are as a species if we adore our MP3 players and smartphones more than we do our lovable cats and huggable dogs.


More troubling attitudes towards technology came courtesy of another piece of research conducted for security company PC Tools. According to the survey, nine out of 10 Americans would rather get nasty chores out of the way than clean their computer's registry to keep it running shipshape and Bristol fashion.

Nearly half of those quizzed said they'd rather do their laundry than give their registry a quick once-over and four in 10 said they'd even prefer to change a baby's nappy than do a spot of computer admin.

And, rather troublingly, more than one in ten said they'd opt for a colonoscopy over the registry-cleaning. Which is fair enough, the Round-Up supposes: after all, you're just swapping one pain in the bum for another…

And finally, want to know what Project Canvas' new name is? The answer is here.

Want to know what Nokia's latest batch of phone's look like? The answer's here.

And want to take a tour of Microsoft's new browser IE9? You can here.

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