New 'Petascale' Computers Will Speed Up Science

Machines accelerate advances in climate change, geology, drug development research
By Jane Yager,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 3, 2007 11:53 AM CST
Tim Yeager, a computer engineer at the Major Shared Resource Center of the Aeronautical Systems Center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, works amid the rows of processors and network cabinets...   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – A new generation of "petascale" supercomputers capable of 1,000 trillion calculations per second—about twice the current standard—will start running next year, and the power could not only accelerate scientific discovery but also change the scientific method itself, the Washington Post reports. "We can now do as much scientific discovery with computational science as we could do before with observational science or theoretical science," one scientist notes.

The new supercomputers will vastly improve simulations of climate change, geological events such as earthquakes, the effects of new drugs, and the nature of dark matter. Petascale will also impact Wall Street risk calculation, epidemiology, and vehicle development. Not that scientists will be content with petascale—some are already looking forward to the even faster 'exascale' computer, expected around 2018.