Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Pity the Coyote

That poor coyote had better head for the hills. The Roadrunner is now the fastest supercomputer ever.

This new bird owes its speed to a gaming console. Inside Sony's PlayStation 3 is a processor that works hard to make the virtual worlds of games more realistic. It's called the Cell. Programmers and researchers at the Los Alamos National Laboratory and IBM teamed up to tinker with the Cell so it could power Roadrunner, which, the lab announced June 9, doubled the speed record previously held by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory's supercomputer Blue Gene by performing 1.026 quadrillion calculations per second, something knows as a petaflop amongst the cognoscenti.

The Energy Department intends to use Roadrunner to perform calculations needed to ensure that nuclear weapons still are working without testing them underground.

I've written elsewhere about the symbiotic relationship between games and military training and especially the growing use of game controllers to operate weapons and unmanned equipment. So it's no great surprise to see a controller at the core of the fastest computer anywhere. It's just interesting commentary on where America's R&D power is located and where it's focused. More and more, the government is content to let game companies make the tactile and training breakthroughs and then simply to convert them.

Hat tip to Popular Mechanics

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