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US Stakes Supercomputing Claim

The space race with the Soviet Union may be over but the US is still intent on flexing its technology muscles; these days supercomputers have taken over from sputniks in the battle for scientific dominance.

White-coated scientists in shadowy government agencies (and their hardware suppliers) are eagerly awaiting the Top 500 list of the worlds fastest supercomputers, which is due to be released next week. Compiled twice a year by researchers at the University of Mannheim, University of Tennessee, and the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center , the list shows which governments are at the forefront of technology research.

Today, US Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham fired a shot across the bows of current supercomputer supremo Japan. The Department of Energy chief has high hopes for a supercomputing monster dubbed Big Gene/L, which has been developed in conjunction with IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM).

BG/L, as it is known, supports the DOE’s Stockpile Stewardship Program for nuclear weapons. It also establishes US leadership in supercomputing, according to Abraham, who is probably relieved not to be searching for lost storage disks at Los Alamos National Laboratory (see Secretary Sweet-Talks Los Alamos Staff).

Although currently only a quarter of its final size, Abraham said that BG/L has already achieved a performance of 70.72 Teraflops (or trillion floating point operations)
per second. The world’s current fastest supercomputer, the Earth Simulator built by NEC Corp. (Nasdaq: NIPNY; Tokyo: 6701) in Yokohama, Japan, is capable of 35.86 Teraflops per second.

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