Etc...

Do they get to wear a mask?

"It's not necessarily a glamorous task ... but it is vital work," says Brian Button of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, of a new team of 34 state inspectors certified by his office. And that task would be? Checking out the state's many factory farms to determine which ones are excessively smelly. The so-called Nasal Rangers must pass monthly sensitivity tests, and an ultrasharp nose isn't a plus. Their findings will help lawmakers decide whether tougher air-quality rules are needed.

Think fast: the world's speediest supercomputers

The Earth Simulator, a $250 million facility in Japan, retains the title of world's fastest supercomputer in a ranking released this week at an industry conference in Phoenix. Leaping into third - and perhaps heralding a trend - was a cluster of G5 Power Macs assembled at Virginia Tech for the (comparatively) modest price of $7 million. The cluster is officially called "X," because it can perform more than 10 trillion operations per second (teraflops), but known affectionately as "Big Mac." The top 10 supercomputers, their locations, and calculating abilities, in teraflops:

1. Earth Simulator, Japan 35.9 teraflops
2. ASCI Q, Los Alamos (N.M.) National Laboratory 13.9
3. X, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Va. 10.3
4. Tungsten, National Center for Supercomputing Applications, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign 9.8
5. Mpp2, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Richland, Wash. 8.6
6. Lightning, Los Alamos National Laboratory 8.1
7. MCR, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Livermore, Calif. 7.6
8. ASCI White, Lawrence Livermore 7.3
(tie) Seaborg, National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center, Berkeley, Calif. 7.3
10. xSeries, Lawrence Livermore 6.6 - Associated Press

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