US Had Fastest Supercomputer. Now We're Not in the Top 3
Once first, Titan is now the world's fourth fastest
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 21, 2017 8:42 AM CDT
In this photo released by the Xinhua News Agency and taken on June 16, 2016, the Sunway TaihuLight, a new Chinese supercomputer, is seen in Wuxi, eastern China's Jiangsu Province. For the first time the...   (Li Xiang/Xinhua via AP)

(Newser) – America's fastest supercomputer is Titan, a beast that lives up to its name thanks to its ability to perform 17.6 quadrillion calculations per second. But its computing power is now only the fourth strongest in the world. As it did in 2016, the title goes to China's TaihuLight, which can spit out 93 quadrillion calculations per second, or five times what Titan can. It's almost three times faster than the second fastest supercomputer, Tianhe-2, which China also claims. Titan's fall to fourth place came at the hands of Piz Dain in Switzerland. But the MIT Technology Review cites two brag-worthy figures: Of the top 10, the US occupies five slots, and of the top 500, the US beats China 169 to 160.

But it's not just about bragging rights: LiveScience previously reported supercomputers have been used for everything from earthquake research to hurricane forecasting to swine-flu modeling. The Department of Energy, which is responsible for the once-fastest Titan, has just announced that it's kicking $258 million to a handful of companies over three years to build the world's first exascale computer—one that can crunch one billion billion (aka one quintillion, or 1018) calculations per second, and which China is also racing to be the first to build. Forbes reports the six companies involved will add to the pot, with a final price tag of at least $430 million. The US predicts its system will be there by 2021. China says it'll be done by 2020. (Obama issued an executive order for the exascale project.)

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