World’s fastest computer unveiled; Crysis finally playable

Okay, so I’m just kidding about the Crysis thing (Sorry, Crytek!). It’s not like the U.S. government would let anyone play Crysis on their shiny new $100 million rig, anyway. But the world’s fastest supercomputer, nicknamed Roadrunner, doesn’t escape all association with videogaming.

Co-developed by IBM and Los Alamos National Laboratory, Roadrunner has a lot in common with the PS3. Says David Turek, vice president of IBM’s supercomputing programs, “We took the basic chip design (of a PlayStation) and advanced its capability… [it’s] a very souped-up Sony PlayStation 3.”

Before you Sony fanboys get too excited, however, there are a couple of notable differences between your beloved console and the fastest supercomputer in the world. Notably, while the PS3 has a cell processor, Roadrunner has 12,960 of them. And something tells me that the hulking 500,000 pound behemoth won’t sit nicely on top of your TV.

Roadrunner established itself as the world’s fastest computer in a two-hour long test on May 25th. It achieved one petaflop (that’s 1,000 trillion floating point operations per second) both in the test and later with real applications dealing with nuclear weapons.

Roadrunner will primarily be used to help manage the US’s nuclear arsenal, and to perform other work relating to nuclear weapons, such as simulating explosions. Scientists are also enthusiastic about using Roadrunner in a wide range of other applications, such as developing more efficient cars, finding a cure for HIV, and even investigating the origins of the universe. Sadly, there was no mention of developing better physics engines, programming more convincing enemy A.I., or running games with really badass graphics…

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