In Race for Fastest Supercomputer, China Outpaces U.S.

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is one of the great symbols of America’s scientific and military prowess. For six decades, here on this tranquil campus tucked away in the hill country east of San Francisco, where scientists stroll along leafy paths and zip to meetings on bicycles, huge breakthroughs have been made, like the discovery of a half-dozen elements on the periodic table and the detection of a key component of dark matter.

Livermore’s biggest claim to fame involves designing the world’s most advanced nuclear warheads—this was the mission of the lab when it was created in 1952 by Edward Teller, father of the hydrogen bomb. To do this, Livermore relies on powerful machines called supercomputers, which hum away inside top-secret, heavily guarded buildings. The U.S. has long dominated the industry. Which is what made the news that Bruce Goodwin, head of the lab’s weapons program, received last November all the more momentous: the Chinese had unveiled the world’s most powerful supercomputer, a machine five times more powerful than Livermore’s biggest computer.

To most of us, this might sound like no big deal, akin to Apple coming out with a faster smartphone than Microsoft. But to the scientists, industry titans, and world leaders who understand how delicate America’s position as a global superpower really is, this was a Sputnik moment. Only this time, it wasn’t Russia trouncing the U.S. in the space race, but China surging ahead in one of the most vital areas of national security. By running thousands of processors in parallel, supercomputers not only help design weapons systems, they also model climate change, crack codes, and help develop new and life-changing drugs. Cranking out 500 trillion operations per second, just one of Livermore’s supercomputers throws off so much heat that if the air-conditioning system were to fail, the computer would start to melt within minutes.

» via Newsweek

Notes

  1. niqbailey reblogged this from theatlantic
  2. letsdoubletrouble reblogged this from theatlantic
  3. nunorml reblogged this from theatlantic
  4. rudimick reblogged this from theatlantic
  5. allc4 reblogged this from theatlantic and added:
    If you read just this segment of the story, it gives a picture that isn’t entirely accurate. Blue Gene/L (Livermore)...
  6. ckdalton reblogged this from theatlantic and added:
    Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is one of the great symbols of America’s scientific and military prowess. For six...
  7. onepieceswimmer reblogged this from theatlantic
  8. virtualite reblogged this from theatlantic and added:
    improwpotent
  9. phendrana reblogged this from theatlantic
  10. kuwaitigenious reblogged this from infoneer-pulse and added:
    Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is one of the great symbols of America’s scientific and military prowess. For six...
  11. shang-hi reblogged this from theatlantic
  12. socialcubix reblogged this from infoneer-pulse and added:
    Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is one of the great symbols of America’s scientific and military prowess. For six...
  13. jeffinsocal reblogged this from theatlantic
  14. hyperspectral reblogged this from infoneer-pulse and added:
    holy shit
  15. theatlantic reblogged this from infoneer-pulse
  16. infoneer-pulse posted this