House passes major science, technology bill

The bill would encourage STEM participation from female students and underrepresented groups by creating scholarships and other incentives, and it also would examine the challenges that rural school districts face as they try to give students a 21st-century education, including sparse access to high-speed internet service and lab resources.

The bill also would provide funding for scholarship and training programs to recruit new K-12 math and science teachers, and to enhance the skills of existing teachers.

The House passed the bill just days before a Chinese supercomputer was ranked the world’s second-fastest machine in a list issued by U.S. and European researchers, highlighting the strides that China has made in its own ambitions to become a global technology center.

The Nebulae system at the National Supercomputing Centre in Shenzhen in southern China came in behind the U.S. Department of Energy’s Jaguar in Oak Ridge, Tenn., according to the list released May 31.

The Nebulae is capable of sustained computing of 1.271 petaflops—or 1,271 trillion calculations—per second, according to the semiannual TOP500 list, which said the Jaguar was capable of sustained computing of 1.75 petaflops.

The list highlighted China’s efforts to join the United States, Europe, and Japan in the global technology elite—and its sharp increases in research spending, driven by booming economic growth.

The communist Beijing government wants China to evolve from a low-cost factory into an prosperous “innovation society.” A 15-year government plan issued in 2006 promises support for areas ranging from computers to lasers to genetics.

Boosted by Nebulae’s performance, China rose to No. 2 overall on the TOP500 list, with 24 of the 500 systems on the list and 9.2 percent of global supercomputing capacity, up from 21 systems six months ago.

The United States held onto its overall lead, with 282 of the 500 systems and 55.4 percent of installed performance. Europe had 144 systems on the list, including 38 in Britain, 29 in France, and 24 in Germany.

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