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Saturday, July 24, 2004

Faster, cheaper, better via Economist

The ability to build powerful computers cheaply, combined with growing commercial demand for high-end computing power, is creating a renaissance in the field of supercomputing.Two applications in particular have driven the development of supercomputers: the modelling of climate change and of what happens inside a nuclear explosion—the second of which is necessary because of the ban on actual nuclear testing that is obeyed by established nuclear powers.Supercomputers are also good for modelling the way proteins fold and, it has been thought, should be useful at helping to predict which drugs might work.For more than two years, the fastest computer in the world has been the “Earth Simulator”. Built by Japan's NEC, this machine is used for climate modelling. The two next-fastest computers are used to model nuclear weapons at America's Department of Energy.
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