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Roadrunner Supercomputer  (Source: IBM)
Roadrunner supercomputer is first to break petaflop barrier

A new supercomputer in the U.S. has broken a barrier that many thought wouldn’t be broken for years to come. A new supercomputer-- dubbed Roadrunner-- has broken the petaflop barrier.

Roadrunner was designed by engineers and scientists at IBM and the Los Alamos National Laboratory. Ultimately, Roadrunner will be placed into a classified environment where it will be used to simulate what effects aging has on the stockpile of nuclear weapons the U.S. has in its arsenal. The problem it will work on is modeling how aging nuclear weapons behave the first fraction of a second during an explosion. Before beginning its nuclear weapons research, Roadrunner will be used to model the effects of global warming.

The Roadrunner supercomputer costs $133 million and is built using chips from both consumer electronics and more common server processors.

Roadrunner has 12,960 chips that are an improved version of the Cell chip used in the PS3. These Cell processors act as a turbocharger for certain portions of the calculations the Roadrunner processes. The computer also uses a smaller, unspecified number of AMD Opteron processors.

A computer researcher from the University of Tennessee, Jack Dongarra told the New York Times, “This [breaking the petaflop barrier] is equivalent to the four-minute mile of supercomputing.”

Horst Simon from the Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory said, “Roadrunner tells us about what will happen in the next decade. Technology is coming from the consumer electronics market and the innovation is happening first in terms of cell phones and embedded electronics.”

Technology first appearing in the consumer electronics market and then making its way into supercomputing is a stark contrast to a process that commonly works in the exact opposite manner.

In total, Roadrunner has 116,640 processing cores and the real challenge for programmers is figuring out how to keep all of those processing cores in use simultaneously to get the best performance. Roadrunner requires about 3 megawatts of power, or about enough electricity to run a large shopping center.

To put the processing power in perspective, Thomas P. D’Agostino of the National Nuclear Security Administration said that if all 6 billion people on Earth entered calculations on a calculator for 24 hours a day, seven days per week it would take 46 years to do what Roadrunner can do in one day.

How Roadrunner is cooled is unknown, IBM has recently moved to liquid cooling for its supercomputers, but Roadrunner appears to be air cooled.

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RE: It doesn't matter how fast the computer is
By EvilBlitz on 6/10/2008 1:47:39 AM , Rating: 2
Actually rising CO2 levels cause the oceans to absorb more CO2 and not give off CO2.
As the ocean absorbs more CO2 it becomes more acidic.
The increased acidity reduces the amount of carbonate available to sealife that depends on it(shell fish, diatoms, coral etc). Screwing with the bottom of the food chain is generally bad.
Also anyone whos actually owned an aquarium of some sorts knows how pH changes can change your fish bowl to a death bowl.

RE: It doesn't matter how fast the computer is
By geddarkstorm on 6/10/2008 1:14:05 PM , Rating: 4
The Ordovician Period (~488.3 mya) had CO2 levels around 12x higher than today, an ice age, and also an explosion of marine diversity known as the Ordovician radiation. I seriously doubt we actually understand how the planet works. Not to mention, CO2 levels of a measly 380ppm as they are today is nothing compared to the sheer volume of the ocean and the amount of calcium that is absorbed into constantly through mineral deposition from rivers, shore lines, and simple water action from the tides.

The only thing rising CO2 levels really do is help the plants, as plant growth rate is rate limited by CO2 fixation which is dependent on the concentration of CO2 in the air.

By EvilBlitz on 6/11/2008 1:18:23 AM , Rating: 2
I know they have been higher, but the problem is more the rapidity of the rise.
Global warming could be a crock, but considering how we are thrashing the enviroment I would rather we just try and take a little more care, nothing drastic is needed.

Also Im more worried because a vast percentage of humanity lives close to the shoreline, and with all the other pressures from overfishing to excess fertiliser runoff it could seriously damage many communities livelihoods.

Below is a good link

Note that of late there has been increasingly large "dead spots" off the californian coast and even the starvation of whales. Now this could be due to other reason, but I would prefer we get in and have a good look instead of alot of this fence sitting people are doing.

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