As of last week, the U.S. could once again claim some long-lost bragging rights in the science and technology arena. For the first time since late 2009, our country is now home to the fastest “supercomputer” on the planet.
The new data-crunching champion, dubbed Sequoia, was built by IBM Corp. for the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California. It performs 16.32 quadrillion calculations a second (a quadrillion is a 1 followed by 15 zeroes). That's more than 1.5 times speedier than the next fastest machine, in Japan.
Sequoia's primary job will be to run sophisticated models that allow scientists to assess the capabilities of nuclear weapons without the need for real-world underground testing. Sounds like a sensible option. But supercomputers also are being employed to advance more down-to-earth pursuits such as ever-longer-range weather forecasting, and in healthcare, improving the scope and accuracy of evidence-based medicine, among other research.