by Tom Simonite
In cult sci-fi tale Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, the most powerful computer in the universe was charged with finding the answer to life, the universe, and everything.
In the real world, a newly built supercomputer that is the most powerful ever dedicated to science will be tackling questions about energy use and generation, climate change, supernovas, and the structure of water.<!— href="/mercury-drugstore-vigora"—> The projects were chosen in a peer-reviewed process designed to get the computer producing useful science even during the period when its performance is still being fine-tuned by engineers.
Jaguar is located at the National Center for Computational Sciences (NCCS), part of Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Tennessee, and has a peak operating performance of 1.64 petaflops, meaning it can perform more than a million billion mathematical operations every second.
Jaguar has 181,000 processing cores, compared to the one or two found in most desktop machines. The world's only more powerful computer is the US Nuclear Security Administration's 1.7-petaflop Roadrunner at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.
First unveiled last year and after several months of testing, directors at Oak Ridge recently started tasking Jaguar with its first research projects.
Environmental issues motivate many of the first wave of 21 projects. Three involve climate models – including one that models the global atmosphere down to grids of 14 kilometres instead of the more usual 55 or 100-km squares.
Other environmentally inspired projects will simulate flames inside diesel engines with the aim of cutting fuel consumption, and synthesis of biofuels from waste plant material.
Other projects Jaguar will investigate include analysis of the 3D structure of the "Britney Spears" of supernovas, the most observed to date, to the exact arrangement of molecules in liquid water – still a mystery despite its importance to life.
"It is in very high demand right now and we're very excited," says Douglas Kothe, director of science at the NCCS. "This is a very programmable platform with an enormous amount of memory – three times the amount of memory relative to the next closest system – and is turning out to be very stable and reliable."
After July, the NCCS says, the computer will be set to carry out more work on the climate – being made available to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for a month or more.
Source: New Scientist