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World’s fastest supercomputer is right here in the USA

And just like that, the United States is back on top. We’re not talking about medals in the most recent Olympic Games, though the U.S. did reign with 121 total, nor are we referring to the World Cup, which will start this week without America’s involvement.

In fact, we’re not talking about any kind of sporting event, though the competition to be No. 1 is pretty intense. Instead we’re talking about computer power, or more specifically, supercomputer power.

As of right now, the most powerful supercomputer on the planet calls the United States its home. And powerful, it is.

Take that, China

The news came down Friday, when the Department of Energy showed off a supercomputer known as “Summit.” Located at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, when operating at its peak Summit can run at 200 petaflops.

Now, what is a petaflop? Try 200 quadrillion calculations per second.

The previous record holder was China’s Sunway TaihuLight, though its 93 petaflop capacity pales in comparison to Summit. The last U.S. computer to rank first was Titan, which was about seven times slower than Summit.

Made up of 4,608 servers and the size of about two tennis courts, Summit is made up of more than 9,000 22-core IBM Power9 processors with greater than 27,000 NVIDIA Tesla V100 GPUs. Its cooling system needs 4,000 gallons of water per minute, and all in all it uses enough power to run 8,100 homes.

Summit is about more than just topping China

While that is certainly a benefit, having the most powerful supercomputer in the world and knocking China off the perch it held the last five years, Summit was actually designed for artificial intelligence operations.

It can also use machine and deep learning power to look into health, physics and climate modeling, among other things. In fact, scientists say they have already run exascale scientific calculation, which is 1 billion calculations, or one exaop, per second.

Summit nearly doubled that, coming in at 1.88 exaops as it was analyzing millions of genomes. It can even reach 3.3 exaops by using mixed precision calculations. The U.S. is hopeful of building a fully capable exascale computing ecoystem, one that will be used for research by 2021.

Down the road, projects the supercomputer could help with include analyzing exploding stars and running simulations on new types of materials. They will also look into relationships between cancer factors like genes, biological markers and environment.

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