If something called the National Strategic Computing Initiative sounds like a big deal, that's because it is. The White House yesterday announced an executive order from President Obama describing the NSCI plan, a joint effort of the Department of Energy, Defense Department, and the National Science Foundation, Motherboard reports. Those agencies will design supercomputers for the FBI, NASA, Homeland Security, the NOAA, and the NIH. But it's a supercomputer of all supercomputers Obama is eyeing most enthusiastically, an "exascale" unit with the power to run 30 times faster than the existing fastest supercomputer.
Supercomputers are currently used for a variety of applications, including weapon and plane modeling and for predicting the long-term effects of climate change. Future uses could include creating personalized drugs and gaining access to "the secrets of the human brain," reports Wired. The president wants this uber-computer to operate at more than 1,000 petaflops; a computer running at 1 petaflop has the ability to perform 1 quadrillion arithmetic operations per second, per the executive order. To put this in context, the two fastest supercomputers in the world—China's Tianhe-2 and the supercomputer at Tennessee's Oak Ridge National Laboratory—run at 33.86 petaflops and 17.6 petaflops, respectively. (We can't wait for the cookbook that will come with this exascale computer.)