The US has regained the crown for having the world's fastest super-computer thanks to a new machine so powerful that it can simulate nuclear bombs and power plant accidents – eliminating the need to conduct dangerous underground tests.
The government-funded IBM machine, called Sequoia, can do in eight hours the number of calculations that it would take the average laptop 20,000 years to complete.
It beat Japan's K Computer – manufactured by Fujitsu – to the top of the bi-annual Top500 list of the world's fastest machines, as compiled by a team of international computer science professors. The US dominated the list towards the end of the last decade but lost the top spot, initially to China, two years ago.
The publication of the Top500 list gives a big edge to IBM, which has four computers in the top 10. But the competition is expected to hot up because of the burgeoning demand for handling vast amounts of data.
"Today, the National Nuclear Security Administration uses Sequoia to research the safety, security and reliability of the US nuclear deterrent, replacing the need for underground testing," IBM's research director of deep computing systems wrote in a company blog post. But it its use will soon be expanded to search for patterns across the natural sciences and to model the physical properties of materials at extreme pressures and temperatures.
Sequoia has a back-to-the-future feel for IBM, which became a technological powerhouse in the last century thanks to its manufacture of room-size computing machines.