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Monday September 25, 2017

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Meet the world’s most powerful computer

China only started producing its first computer chips in 2001. But its chip industry has developed at an awesome pace. So much so that Chinese-made chips power the world’s most powerful supercomputer, which is Chinese too.

The computer, known as the Sunway TaihuLight, contains some 41,000 chips and can carry out 93 quadrillion calculations per second. That’s twice as fast as the next-most-powerful supercomputer on the planet (which also happens to be Chinese).

The mind-boggling amount of calculations computers like this can carry out in the blink of an eye can help crunch incredibly complicated data – such as variations in weather patterns over months and years and decades. The BBC’s Cameron Andersen visited the TaihuLight at its home in the National Supercomputing Center in the eastern Chinese city of Wuxi.

A new supercomputer capable of performing highly-detailed climate calculations has been unveiled by the German Climate Computing Center (DKRZ) in Hamburg. Hailed as the world's most powerful forecasting tool, the computer, dubbed 'Blizzard', is designed to take any region of the world and model how it will be impacted by global climate change--offering scientists a peek into the future. How bleak or bright that future is, of course, depends upon decisions made today. It's Powerful...

The computer, which weighs in at 35 tons and fills a room, may look a bit like the archaic punch-card machines of the sixties, but is in fact 60 times more powerful than its predecessor--and 20 thousand times more powerful than your computer at home. It is capable of analyzing over 60 petabytes of climate data, which is roughly the equivalent of 13 million DVDs, and performing over 158 trillion calculations per second. The library has a capacity of 6x 10,000 media and thus has a storage capacity of 60 Petabyte.

Despite its $70 million price-tag, scientists working at DKRZ consider their new super-computer invaluable. The machine is able to track maritime and atmospheric reactions, as well as the influence ice and plants have on greenhouse gases--virtually no weather phenomenon is too slight. According to DKRZ, "the new supercomputer should be in a position to model even tornadoes and very small eddies."

Although the computer was officially inaugurated yesterday, Blizzard has been in operation since April. It is responsible for most of the climate data being discussed at Copenhagen's conference this week and has undoubtedly played a major role in clarifying the threat of climate change for scientists around the world. As with such large, powerful computers, Blizzard takes an enormous amount of energy to operate. So, in order to keep the world's largest climate super-computer from contributing to the problems it's designed to help scientists better understand, Blizzard is powered solely by wind and other renewable forms of energy. How cool is that?

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