Supercomputer blows away all others
- By Judi Hasson
- Jun 29, 2000
IBM Corp. delivered the most powerful supercomputer in the world to the
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory this week — a system that will enable
scientists to monitor the condition of nuclear weapons in the U.S. stockpile
without having to detonate them.
The $110 million computer system was shipped in 25 tractor-trailer trucks
for the cross-country trip from an IBM facility in Poughkeepsie, N.Y, to
the Energy Department laboratory 45 miles east of San Francisco.
The system, code-named ASCI White, has attained a peak performance of
12.3 trillion operations per second, or 12.3 teraflops. That is about three
times faster than the world's most powerful computer to date (3.87 teraflops),
according to IBM program director Tom Haine.
In the past, the United States had to detonate nuclear weapons underground
to see if they still worked. The new supercomputer system will enable scientists
to keep track of the state of the weapons by simulating their condition
David Cooper, Lawrence Livermore's chief information officer, said the
supercomputer will be able to contribute to breakthroughs in other areas,
including global finances, pollution and weather monitoring.
The computer is 1,000 times more powerful than "Deep Blue," the IBM
computer that defeated world chess champion Gary Kasparov in 1997.
It is so powerful that it would take one person with a calculator 10
million years to do the number of calculations that ASCI White can do in
one second, according to IBM. And it weighs 106 tons — the equivalent of
17 full-size elephants.