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Thursday, 20 June 2013 09:58

World’s fastest computer may be too powerful

Written by Nick Farrell



Ahead of its time


When the Tianhe-2 was launched it was hailed as an example of China's tech muscle, but now it appears it might be too powerful for most tasks.

The Tianhe-2 can perform 33,860 trillion calculations a second, but it will probably never get the chance to run at full working capacity, according to the China Morning Post. One scientist Dr Cao Jun said that a huge amount of data could choke the computational monster and a slower machine at the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Institute of High Energy Physics could get the same job done more quickly and cheaply. This means that the computer is not any chop for high energy physics and he was not sure what it could do.

It is a problem for the new generation supercomputers. Titan, built by Cray at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, has served in only six, quite similar major projects dealing with molecular physics, such as simulating engine combustion to improve fuel efficiency and modelling the movement of air molecules for climate change estimates.

Tianhe-2 is expected to control traffic lights, predict earthquakes, develop new drugs, design cars and create movie special effects, among a dozen other things. But a multipurpose computer is not especially good at anything and, like most expensive supercomputers in big cities, is likely to be twiddling its thumbs most of the time.


Nick Farrell

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