NYT and WSJ – U.S. Is Again Home to World’s Speediest Supercomputer



  • United States just won bragging rights in the race to build the world’s speediest supercomputer
  • China, last 5 years, had the world’s fastest computer (note though it was build from CPU’s from US companies like Intel, though more recently internally developed CPU’s like Sunway TaihuLight)
  • United States retook the lead thanks to a machine, called Summit, built for the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee
  • Summit cab do mathematical calculations at the rate of 200 quadrillion per second
  • An analogy – If a stadium built for 100,000 people was full, and everyone in it had a modern laptop, it would take 20 stadiums to match the computing firepower of Summit
  • China still has the world’s most supercomputers (published)
  •  China, Japan and Europe are developing machines that are even faster
  • Summit, which cost $200 million in government money to build, can accelerate the development of technologies at the frontier of computing, like artificial intelligence and the ability to handle vast amounts of data
  • Supercomputers perform tasks that include simulating nuclear tests, predicting climate trends, finding oil deposits and cracking encryption codes
  • global supercomputer rankings have been compiled for more than two decades by a team of computer scientists who put together a Top 500 list.
    • led by Jack Dongarra, a computer scientist at the University of Tennessee
  • Summit, at 200 petaflops, achieves more than twice the speed of the leading supercomputer last November
  • Summit is made up of refrigerator-size units
    • weigh a total of 340 tons
    • housed in a 9,250 square-foot room
    • powered by 9,216 central processing chips from IBM and 27,648 graphics processors from Nvidia
    • interfaced together with 185 miles of fiber-optic cable
    • cooling Summit requires 4,000 gallons of water a minute
    • consumes enough electricity to light up 8,100 American homes
  • Summit can be seen as a placeholder. Supercomputers that are five times faster are in the works across the globe
  • In the last report, November 2017, Chinese machines took 202 spots compared with 143 U.S. systems (of the 500)
  • One of the first projects slated to run on Summit will apply machine-learning algorithms to genetic data to identify patterns that could lead to treatments for Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease and opioid addiction
  • Researchers also will use Summit to study exploding stars, known as supernovas, applying more than 100 times the computational power than used previously

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