Supercomputer blows away all others

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

and aging.

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.

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