/ June 17, 2008

U.S. Unveils World’s Fastest Supercomputer

The United States’ military has hit a new milestone in computing. The new Roadrunner supercomputer, assembled with I.B.M. in the Los Alamos National Laboratory to address complex issues of national security (such as monitoring the national stockpile of nuclear weapons), is the first petaflop computer in the world. For those of you less familiar with supercomputing jargon, a petaflop computer is one capable of making one thousand trillion calculations per second, and operates at twice the speed of the next fastest computer. Thomas D’Agostino of the National Nuclear Security Administration, illustrates to the New York Times the magnitude of this achievement with the following example:

If “all six billion people on earth used hand calculators and performed calculations 24 hours a day and seven days a week, it would take them 46 years to do what the Roadrunner can in one day.”

Before it begins its tenure with the military, the computer will also be used for various scientific endeavors, including investigations into global warming. Having successfully created the first petaflop computer has added a feeling of pride to American supercomputer enthusiasts, who note that several other countries had been vying for this honor. But, as many experts note, it is not the computer itself that deserves the celebration, but the amazingly intricate and significant issues which it can help us tackle.

Source: The New York Times

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