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.