X-Message-Number: 14246
Date: Sat, 5 Aug 2000 13:00:50 -0700 (PDT)
From: Doug Skrecky <>
Subject: 6 Teraflop Civilian Computer Sys

The last sentence of the following post stood out for me. If
field of gerontology can harness the power of the computer revolution,
then a gerontology revolution might quickly ensue. By simulating
biological processes, computing might greatly accelerate the pace of

extropians-digest       Saturday, August 5 2000       Volume 05 : Number 214

Subject: 6 Teraflop Civilian Computer Sys

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$45 Million Grant Awarded to Buy Supercomputer 

he National Science Foundation announced yesterday that it had made a $45 
million award to the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center to buy what will be the 
world's fastest nonmilitary supercomputer when it is completely installed 
next year, Compaq, the computer's maker, said. 

The award, which was announced Thursday in Washington after the foundation 
reviewed proposals from five competition scientific centers, is intended to 
reinvigorate the nation's civilian computational science resources, which 
have increasingly fallen behind the resources available to the military in 
recent years. 

"The general perception is that we're under-resourced when compared to the 
military programs," said Robert Borchers, division director of the advanced 
computational infrastructure and research division of the National Science 

The military has been spending heavily on supercomputing as part of the 
Advanced Strategic Computing Initiative, which is intended to insure the 
nation's nuclear weapons stockpile maintains its effectiveness during the 
nuclear testing treaty that bans weapons testing. 

The announcement is likely to shake up the supercomputer industry. The other 
two major competitors were machines designed by I.B.M. and Intel, who have 
recently been the most powerful forces in the supercomputer industry. Now, 
however, Compaq may emerge as a third force in the competition. 

The foundation's award is also a boost for the Pittsburgh Supercomputer 
Center, which has been in jeopardy since March of 1997 when the foundation 
announced it planned to cut in half the number of supercomputer centers it 
finances -- from four to two. 

The remaining two centers are the National Center for Supercomputer 
Applications at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the San 
Diego Supercomputer Center at the University of California at San Diego. 

The Pittsburgh supercomputer will be designed and built by Compaq Computer 
Corporation and the new machine will have a peak performance of about six 
trillion mathematical operations per second - or six teraflops - when it is 
completely installed some time in the second half of next year. 

The most powerful military supercomputer is a 12 teraflop supercomputer 
called ASCI White, which is being installed at Lawrence Livermore National 
Laboratory in Livermore, Calif. The machine will cost $110 million, take up 
two basketball courts worth of floor space, weigh 106 tons and will 8.192 

The Compaq computer will be based on 2.728 Alpha processors, which will be 
organized into 682 separate nodes and will cost about $36 million. 

The new computer will be shared by different scientific disciplines, 
including materials science and climate modeling. Because the new machine 
will have six times the power of the current fastest nonmilitary computer, 
Mr. Borchers said it was possible that it would be able to do fundamentally 
new science. 

"I suspect in the areas of materials and biological science it will be 
possible to make significant advances," he said. 

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