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Top ten tech records

Some claim that, if you want to be a record-breaker, dedication's what you need. Others believe all you need is a stonking huge mobile phone, a lightning-fast electric motorbike or a 2.3-gigapixel camera

Gadgets

In the 15 years since genial trumpeter Roy Castle went to the great Book of Records in the sky, technology has moved faster than his tap-dancing toes. The majority of the biggest, fastest and most powerful tech mentioned here wasn't even dreamed of back in 1994, which makes us wonder what futuristic world records are yet to be set. Strongest prosthetic exoskeleton? Fastest sub-orbital ramjet? Deadliest virtual-reality mind virus? Here's our current cutting-edge top ten tech records.

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That pesky coyote won't catch this silicon speedster. The first supercomputer to break the petaflop processing barrier, it currently peaks at 1.46 quadrillion floating point operations per second. With 12,960 IBM PowerXCell 8i and 6,480 AMD Opteron dual-core processors, the Roadrunner occupies 560 square metres at the US Department of Energy's Los Alamos National Laboratory, where it's used to oversee the country's nuclear arsenal. That's probably the last job in the world anyone who's ever watched a Terminator film would give to the planet's first semi-sentient machine.

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There's plenty of torque about this stripped-down, pumped-up drag-racing motorbike. Over a quarter of a mile, the KillaCycle can outpace the fastest-tuned Teslas and even the speediest electric planes, going from 0 to 60mph in under a second and topping out at 170mph. It's all down to the batteries apparently: 1,210 li-ion cells using the latest nanophosphate technology develop well over 500hp, and cost less than 5p to recharge for each record-breaking run.

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Happy with all 2,073,600 pixels of your swanky 1080p flat panel? How quaint. The Highly Interactive Parallelised Display Space (HIPerSpace) features nearly 287 million pixels of screen resolution. That's nearly one pixel for every time Gordon Ramsay has ever said a swear word. The 70-screen, tiled HIPerSpace system is used for scientific visualisation at the University of California, San Diego, where it allows researchers to zoom into the smallest details in multi-gigapixel data sets, and play some awesome games of Modern Warfare 2 during downtime.

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Small mobiles are so 20th century. These days, the bigger the phone you own, the more important you are. Barack Obama, the Pope and Stephen Fry should all be fighting over the humungous Samsung Messenger -- 4.5m of screen-sliding, Qwerty-texting averageness. This fully functional model was mocked up to mark the launch of its puny, normal-sized sibling, measuring a mere 110mm tall, on the Cricket network in the US.

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Let's get one thing straight. We all want a 2.3-gigapixel (2,300-megapixel) ultra-resolution camera with visible and infrared imaging capabilities -- but only the US Army has the bottomless black-ops budget to pay for it. The Pentagon has put out a tender for an electronically stabilised spy camera that can shoot two multi-gigapixel frames a second from on-board one of its growing fleet of surveillance drones. That's not all -- it wants the camera to be more reliable, lighter and less costly than "those currently available". Does that mean it already has a 2.3-gigapixel snapper looking down at us? Who knows? It's classified.

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Get ready for a head-on, no-holds-barred smackdown between Mozilla and Adobe. Mozilla claimed the record for the most downloads in 24 hours when Firefox 3 racked up 8m requests in June 2008. But, come January 2009, Adobe let slip that Flash Player 10 had been downloaded to 55 per cent of the world's more than 1bn computers in just two months, working out to over 9m downloads a day. Mozilla apparently mumbled something about "user initiated, full version" downloads, but we don't want talk -- we want blood. Mozilla and Adobe execs fighting with gladiator gear in a dusty stadium? That's easily worth 10m downloads.

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Take an old Volvo estate, fill it with concrete, add Stetsom amps, DD subwoofers and XS battery packs and you too might be able to break windows, burst eardrums and distress elderly gentlefolk in the made-up sport of dB racing. But you probably won't beat Alan Dante's world-record sound-pressure level of 181.7dB -- he's from Brazil, where even shouting "Gooooooal!" can take 5 minutes and cause deafness in small mammals.

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Folding@home doesn't refer to putting the laundry away or even practising origami, but to the more than 400,000 devices worldwide that together form a virtual supercomputer working on analysing the structure of biochemical proteins. The network is composed of Windows, Mac and Linux computers, Nvidia and ATI graphics cards and 50,000 PlayStation 3s, with the Folding@home client kicking in during idle clock cycles. The network can achieve processing speeds of over 5 petaflops, an output larger than the world's top six supercomputers combined.

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So small they even had to remove the letters 'le' from its name, this modular mobile is designed to slip into various 'jackets' to add various functionality, such as navigation, gaming or in-car entertainment abilities. On its own, the Modu is a 40g waif with a 33mm (1.3-inch) OLED screen, basic tri-band GSM reception, a seven-key control pad, MP3 playback and 2GB of storage. Future plans include a 3G model and an Android jacket.

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Yes, you do look stupid walking along with a Jabra sticking out of your ear, but think how much sillier you'd look with 244m of neo-Gothic bascule and suspension ironwork dangling from your lughole. In 2007, London Bridge and Tower Bridge were turned into Bluetooth devices for the Switched On London festival. Sensors on London Bridge detected passing Bluetooth phones, which then appeared as coloured pixels along the side of Tower Bridge. While this was strictly a one-off installation, you can probably find an American out there willing to buy London Bridge from you as an iPhone accessory.

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