Japanese 'Earth Simulator' supercomputer beats out U.S. computer as world's fastest

Saturday, April 20th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) _ A new Japanese supercomputer has taken the title of world's fastest away from an American computer, zipping along nearly five times faster than its closest competitor.

The NEC Earth Simulator _ which creates a ``virtual planet Earth'' to predict climate patterns _ tops the 2002 list of fastest supercomputers released Saturday.

``The climate industry in the U.S. has had inferior machines for a number of years,'' said Jack Dongarra, a University of Tennessee computer science professor who leads the group of researchers that tracks the world's 500 speediest computers. He will present the findings at a June conference in Germany.

The NEC Earth Simulator, as large as four tennis courts, works at a speed of 35,600 gigaflops. A gigaflop equals a billion mathematical operations per second. The top-ranked computer on the list's November 2001 edition, IBM's ASCI White, runs at a speed of 7,226 gigaflops.

A computer capable of calculating complex equations so quickly could save lives and property by predicting typhoons and other severe weather.

``Math gives us this wonderful crystal ball to predict the future,'' Dongarra said.

The new supercomputer, housed at the Yokohama Institute for Earth Sciences, is a breakthrough not just for Japanese technology but scientists everywhere, said Dongarra. He expects U.S. researchers and others to try to tap into Earth Simulator's massive computing power.