Japanese 'Earth Simulator' supercomputer beats U.S. computer as world's fastest

Posted: Sunday, April 21, 2002

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- A new Japanese supercomputer has taken the title of world's fastest away from an American computer, zipping along nearly five times faster than its closest competitor.

The NEC Earth Simulator -- which creates a ''virtual planet Earth'' to predict climate patterns -- tops the 2002 list of fastest supercomputers released Saturday.

''The climate industry in the U.S. has had inferior machines for a number of years,'' said Jack Dongarra, a University of Tennessee computer science professor who leads the group of researchers that tracks the world's 500 speediest computers. He will present the findings at a June conference in Germany.

The NEC Earth Simulator, as large as four tennis courts, works at a speed of 35,600 gigaflops. A gigaflop equals a billion mathematical operations per second. The top-ranked computer on the list's November 2001 edition, IBM's ASCI White, runs at a speed of 7,226 gigaflops.

A computer capable of calculating complex equations so quickly could save lives and property by predicting typhoons and other severe weather.

''Math gives us this wonderful crystal ball to predict the future,'' Dongarra said.

The new supercomputer, housed at the Yokohama Institute for Earth Sciences, is a breakthrough not just for Japanese technology but scientists everywhere, said Dongarra. He expects U.S. researchers and others to try to tap into Earth Simulator's massive computing power.



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