In Pictures: 15 amazing tech feats and world records

Not to be outdone by athletes at this summer’s Olympic games, techies have been setting some world records of their own of late.

  • Supercomputers with ever more blazing speed, transistors that are smaller than ever and thousands of URLs where you can never lose them. These are the techiest records, the kind of accomplishments that keeps Guinness pumping out volumes of world records year after year.

  • Fastest supercomputer There is a new reigning fastest supercomputer as of this summer. IBM’s Sequoia is a 16.32 petaflop machine that runs on about 1.5 million processing cores at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California. It recently surpassed Fujitsu K, which is a 10.51 petaflop megamachine running on 705,024 cores, to become the most powerful supercomputer in the world.

  • Smallest transistor This record could be tough to beat. I mean, how much smaller can you get? An international group of United States and Australian researchers have created what they call the smallest possible controllable transistor: It’s only an atom large. Heralded as a major step toward ushering in an era of next-generation quantum computing, the researchers created the transistor using only a single phosphorus atom. “We can’t make it smaller than this,” claimed Purdue researcher Gerhard Klimeck.

  • Fastest chip Need more compute speed? How about 8.429 GHz of CPU? AMD set the record for the highest frequency of a computer processor last year with its FX chip, breaking the previous record of 8.308 GHz. Don’t try this at home though: Researchers who set the record used liquid nitrogen to cool the chip after it reached temperatures of about 230 degrees.

  • Super gun The United States Navy knows how to destroy stuff. Case in point: In 2010 it created the world’s most powerful electromagnetic rail-gun, or at least the most powerful that the government has made public. It has firepower of 33 megajoules of force, which is enough to propel projectiles over long distances at between 4,500 to 5,600 miles per hour. To put that in perspective, a megajoule is equivalent to a one ton vehicle travelling at 100 miles per hour. The Navy may be looking to advance the technology too. It put out a request for information to investigate the possibility to building such a weapon that would shoot hundreds of rounds per minute, instead of a single shot.

  • Hack that A 278-digit-long (923-bit) key seems pretty secure, right? Maybe not. Researchers initially thought it would take thousands of years to crack the code, but alas Japanese researchers set a world record in June by cracking the encryption key in 148.2 days. They used 21 computers with a total of 252 cores to conduct the cryptanalysis, which included a range of search algorithm optimization and parallel programming techniques.

  • Logging web sites Ever have trouble remembering that URL address? Well, Pat Vaillancourt of Quebec has an easy way: Tattoo them to your body – 10,012 times. Vaillancourt holds the world record for most URLs tattooed on his body, mostly on his back and shoulders. And he’s not done. “I’ll see you next time at 25,000 web site addresses,” he says.

  • Just browsing We think we’ve found a partner for website tattoo man. Justin Bank of Illinois has the record for the most Mozilla Firefox browser tabs open at once with 11,411. He initially held the record with 5,231 tabs open, but that was promptly beaten by Dave Betten, who opened 10,554 tabs. Not to be outdone, Bank responded by opening up almost 1,000 additional tabs on top of Betten’s total. He also has a record for Google Chrome tabs open (pictured) at 2,012.

  • Smashing success Most everyone’s heard about the Higgs boson discovery by now, but researchers who made that breakthrough set a world record in their search for the “God particle.” The European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) has broken its own world record every few years for the most powerful energy accelerator. Using the organization’s Large Hadron Collider, researchers smash particles together inside a 17-mile tube. CERN’s record-setting feat involved accelerating particles up to 4 teraelectronvolts of energy each and crashing them together, creating a combined energy of 8 TeVs, breaking the LHC’s previous record of 7 combined TeVs last year. CERN officials aren’t done yet though. Next they’re shooting for 13 TeVs.

  • Throw it away Ever wonder what to do with an old cell phone? Selling it, donating it, or jailbreaking it are some options. Or, if you’re England’s Chris Hughff, you could throw your phone a whopping 314 feet. Throughout the mid-2000s Finland held an annual Mobile Phone Throwing Competition during which competitors tested how far they could chuck their wireless devices. Most of the events, including ones held in the United States, are part of phone recycling programs, with some added competition involved.

  • This is no phone to throw away: Goldstricker, a U.K. company that fashions high-tech gadgets and turns them into expensive commodities, claims to have the most expensive phone, the iPhone 4 Diamond Rose, which has more than 500 diamonds, totaling more than 100 carots, selling for a cool $7.79 million.

  • Texting record Melissa Thompson was walking through a mall in England in 2010 where Samsung had a competition set up to see how fast participants could type a phrase. Thompson gave it a go, and set a world record. Making the impromptu record even more impressive is the phrase she typed -- "The razor-toothed piranhas of the genera Serrasalmus and Pygocentrus are the most ferocious freshwater fish in the world. In reality they seldom attack a human” -- in 25.94 seconds. That crushed the previous record by more than 9 seconds.

  • Laser focused Researchers at the National Ignition Facility at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory have created the world’s most powerful laser, which condenses 192 individual lasers into a single beam. The laser measures at 2.03 megajoules, breaking the previous record for most powerful laser at 1.6 megajoules. Scientists hope to use the laser to fuse hydrogen isotopes in an effort to create manmade nuclear fusion.

  • Micromouse Mazes can be tricky, but not for Min 7.1, a four-wheeled micromouse robot that has the world record for fastest time speeding through a 256-square-foot maze in under 4 seconds. To be fair, the robotic mouse was allowed to calibrate its path before making the world-record setting run, but once the mouse learned the course – which took just 90 seconds – the second time through it went right to the end and back in record time.

  • Rubik’s master English computer scientists used LEGO building blocks to construct CubeStormer II, a four-armed robot that set a world record for solving a Rubik’s cube in 5.27 seconds, demolishing the previous robotic world record of more than one minute. The robot uses a Samsung Galaxy S II smartphone, which analyzes the cube and transmits the moves needed to solve the cube to the robot. Humans aren’t far behind at 5.66 seconds.

  • Mission to Mars, kind of Will humans ever make it to Mars? One thing that needs to be tested before astronauts lift off is if they can handle the ride there and back, a total of about 66 million miles. The European Space Agency conducted a study where a crew of astronauts conducted a mock trip to the planet, and in doing so set a world record for longest time in isolation on a space mission. The astronauts didn’t quite make it into space though; in fact, they spent the entire time in a 19,400 cubic-foot hatch in Moscow. Complete with beds, kitchen, a greenhouse and other amenities, the crew even simulated a landing and walking on the planet (a sand box).

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