PHunterLau wins the challenge, but more STEM skills still needed
The Prime Challenge, launched by Microsoft Azure in November last year (291113) came to an end on Saturday (2903) with the user registered as PHunterLau being declared the winner. Over 400 people signed up to the challenge, but it was PHunterLau who emerged as the winner after discovering a prime number that was over 342,000 digits long.
“Thanks to everyone that took part in The Prime Challenge, and of course huge congratulations to the winner – PHunterLau,” said Steve Plank, Cloud Computing and STEM Evangelist at Microsoft. “We’ve shown that with a bit of determination, some computing resource and possibly a bit of luck here and there, we can advance knowledge in mathematics.”
“However, as an industry and a nation we must do more to maintain the interest in maths, as well as science, technology and engineering. We mustn’t allow the interest in STEM skills to continue to decline,” continued Plank. “This challenge has shown a critical intersection between technological components and skills.”
The Prime Challenge was designed as a platform to introduce people to the way complex computing will all be done in the future: in the cloud. It catered to people with a casual interest in the topic, through to mathematically skilled coders. In fact, many of the participants of The Prime Challenge had never used cloud computing before, yet with their free Microsoft Azure subscriptions they were building and configuring servers. On the other end of the scale while many entrants used mathematical tools that already existed, such as Marcel Martin’s Primo, some wrote their own code.
“A challenge like this, which gives people a brief view in to how complex computing will be done from now on gives a window on the future and hopefully captures future generations of students who are currently turning away from the core skills required to drive the technology sector forward,” continued Plank. “These STEM skills drive the modern economy and the STEM experts will become the future business leaders.”
One example of the importance of maths in modern business is the role prime numbers play. Amongst other things, they are used to create public key cryptography algorithms and it is these algorithms that are used to secure nearly all online data transfers, including email encryption and bank card security. Almost every online purchase that is made will use prime numbers in its security process.
STEM skills are vital for the UK economy. Not only are there a growing number of jobs that directly require these skills – jobs in technology, science and R&D – but more and more of the economy now relies on the internet and other technology. Online shopping, banking and search means that modern commerce is effectively powered by STEM skills.
To highlight the huge gaps in the number space that The Prime Challenge hoped to explore Shoothill (www.shoothill.com) developed a deep zoom image (http://www.shoothill.com/DeepZoomPrime/). Using this visualization you can see when the record-breaking prime numbers have been discovered, the advances that have been made and the huge gaps between them.
The Microsoft Azure Prime Challenge was launched on 29th November (291113 – itself a prime number) to offer an interesting and exciting opportunity to have fun with maths. The objective was to find the “lost primes”; those prime numbers that have remained undiscovered in the race to always find the biggest prime. The challenge, which closed on 29th March (2903 – another prime number), was also intended to generate additional interest in STEM skills in an innovative way.
Oil rises as U.S. vaccine progress raises demand expectations
By Shu Zhang
SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Oil prices rose on Wednesday as signs of progress in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout in the United States, the world’s biggest consumer, raised demand expectations.
U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures rose 15 cents, or 0.25%, to $59.90 a barrel by 0757 GMT, recovering from three days of losses.
Brent crude futures rose 24 cents, or 0.38%, to $62.94 a barrel after four days of losses.
“Ongoing stimulus measures, as COVID-19 vaccinations speed up, have boosted sentiment,” ANZ analysts wrote in a note.
The U.S. will have enough COVID-19 vaccine for every American adult by the end of May, President Joe Biden said on Tuesday after Merck & Co agreed to make rival Johnson & Johnson’s inoculation.
Futures were down earlier in the day amid uncertainty over how much supply the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and allies, together called OPEC+, will restore to the market at its Thursday meeting and a big build in U.S. crude inventories
The OPEC+ meeting on Thursday comes at a time when producers are generally positive on the oil market outlook compared with a year ago when they slashed supply to boost prices.
The market widely expects OPEC+ to ease production cuts, which were the deepest ever, by about 1.5 million barrels per day (bpd), with OPEC’s leader, Saudi Arabia, ending its voluntary production cut of 1 million bpd.
Still, an OPEC+ technical committee document reviewed by Reuters called “for cautious optimism,” citing “the underlying uncertainties in the physical markets and macro sentiment, including risks from COVID-19 mutations that are still on the rise”.
Reinforcing concerns of potential oversupply, the American Petroleum Institute industry group reported U.S. crude stocks rose by 7.4 million barrels in the week to Feb. 26, in stark contrast to analysts’ estimates for a draw of 928,000 barrels. [API/S]
However, that build occurred while U.S. refining capacity was shut during the survey week because of cold weather in Texas. Refinery runs fell by 1.75 million bpd, the API data showed.
“The recent selloff may help reinforce Saudi’s cautious stance and delay any production increase,” said Stephen Innes, global market strategist at Axi.
“It’s probably something that could sway the OPEC+ increase more back toward the 500,000 bpd as opposed to the 1.5 million bpd,” he said.
(Reporting by Shu Zhang and Sonali Paul; Editing by Gerry Doyle and Christian Schmollinger)
OPEC oil has advantage over U.S. shale during pandemic recovery
By Jennifer Hiller
(Reuters) – The once-brash U.S. shale industry, which spent profusely in recent years to grab market share, is now focused on preserving cash, putting it at a disadvantage to low-cost OPEC producers as the global economy begins to gear up again.
Prior to the pandemic-induced downturn, OPEC countries led by Saudi Arabia restrained their production, eager to bolster prices to fund national budgets dependent on oil revenue. Shale drillers took advantage, boosting U.S. output to a record 13 million barrels a day.
But attendees of the year’s top energy conference made clear that even with a buoyant, $60-per-barrel oil price, shale will not come roaring back from the Covid-19 pandemic as it did from the 2016 downturn.
By contrast, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies, known as OPEC+, has more than 7 million barrels of daily oil output sitting in reserve. This positions them to boost production much more easily than shale players for the first time in years.
The concern about free-wheeling shale companies taking advantage of OPEC’s output curbs led to a brief supply war in March 2020. Russia balked at a three-year agreement to extend production cuts, and Saudi Arabia responded by flooding the markets with oil, leading U.S. futures prices to slump to negative-$40 a barrel.
“Let’s face it. OPEC has had a very difficult time managing to accommodate the U.S. shale players and their ability to grow at low prices,” said IHS Markit analyst Raoul LeBlanc, adding that the key debate within OPEC is what oil price is just low enough to avoid a massive U.S. response.
The pandemic destroyed a fifth of global fuel demand, and numerous shale companies declared bankruptcy, while others arranged mergers to offload debt. Frustrated investors sent energy-related stocks slumping throughout 2020.
While shale executives expressed concern about reopening the wells too quickly, OPEC nations are expected to ease supply curbs at their meeting later this week, without having to look over their shoulder at shale.
“The worst thing that could happen is that U.S. producers start growing rapidly again,” said ConocoPhillips Chief Executive Ryan Lance.
The market widely expects OPEC to ease production cuts, which were the deepest ever, by around 1.5 million barrels per day (bpd), with OPEC’s leader, Saudi Arabia, ending its voluntary production cut of 1 million bpd. (Graphic: Pandemic ends U.S. oil output) climb)
At CERAWeek, OPEC vs. shale is often discussed as a showdown between competing interests, but the dynamic of Texas vs. the Middle East is nearly invisible this year. Just one panel discussion in a five-day schedule focused on shale. Neither the Exxon or Chevron CEOs mentioned shale during their talks. Both companies have cut spending in the U.S. Permian Basin.
Crude on Tuesday topped $60 per barrel, up from $44.63 at the start of December, high enough to bolster U.S. producers’ earnings given recent cost cuts.
In the past, rising prices have enticed shale companies to ramp up production even after they promised prudence, and $60 oil would have once prompted companies to rush drilling rigs and frack fleets back to work. That is not happening now.
“They are not taking the bait,” LeBlanc said.
Private companies are likely to increase oilfield activity, but not enough to meaningfully boost U.S. output, said LeBlanc, adding that U.S. spending is likely to remain around $60 billion, flat with 2020, as companies prioritize shareholder returns.
“The severe drop in activity in the U.S. along with the high decline rates of shale and the pressure from investment community to maintain discipline instead of growth means in my view that shale will not get back to where it was in the U.S.,” said Occidental Petroleum CEO Vicki Hollub.
(Reporting by Jennifer Hiller; additional reporting by Laila Kearney and Devika Krishna Kumar; editing by David Gaffen and David Gregorio)
U.S. oil industry lobby weighs support of carbon pricing – source
By Valerie Volcovici
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The American Petroleum Institute (API) is weighing endorsing a price on carbon emissions, a major shift after long resisting mandatory government climate policies, a source familiar with the decision making said.
The API, the main U.S. oil industry lobby group that includes most of the world’s biggest oil companies, is considering carbon pricing “among other policy solutions to reduce emissions and reach the ambitions of the Paris Agreement,” the source said, confirming a report about the policy shift by the Wall Street Journal.
The group is confronting its previous resistance to regulatory action on climate change amid a shift in industry strategy on the issue and the new U.S. presidency.
European member Total quit the group because of disagreements over API’s climate policies and support for easing drilling regulations and the Biden administration is pursuing a policy agenda that would shift the United States from fossil fuels.
A draft statement of the policy shift reviewed by the Wall Street Journal said the group does not endorse a specific carbon pricing tool such as a tax on carbon emissions or emissions trading scheme. The source said, however, that the group’s State of American Energy report released in January was supportive of a market-based carbon pricing policy.
The API did not comment on whether or when the group would formally endorse a price on carbon but said it has been working for nearly a year on an industry-wide response to climate change.
“Our efforts are focused on supporting a new U.S. contribution to the global Paris agreement,” said API spokeswoman Megan Bloomgren.
Within API, there has been a widening rift between Europe’s top energy companies https://www.reuters.com/article/us-total-api/frances-total-quits-top-u-s-oil-lobby-in-climate-split-idUSKBN29K1LM, which over the past year accelerated plans to cut emissions and build large renewable energy businesses, and their U.S. rivals Exxon Mobil Corp and Chevron Corp that have resisted growing investor pressure to diversify.
Other major industry groups like the U.S Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable https://www.reuters.com/article/usa-business-carbonpricing/u-s-ceo-group-says-it-supports-carbon-pricing-to-fight-climate-change-idUSKBN2672W4, which includes Chevron, over the last year have endorsed market-based carbon pricing.
Chevron said it has engaged those groups and API “to support well-designed carbon pricing.”
“We support economy-wide carbon pricing as the primary policy tool to address climate change, applied across the broadest possible area to maximize environmental and economic efficiency and effectiveness,” Chevron spokesman Sean Comey said in an e-mailed statement.
BP and Shell declined to comment.
(Reporting by Valerie Volcovici; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Christian Schmollinger)
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