With all the innovation occurring from the bottom up on the internet, it’s sometimes easy to forget the massive changes being wrought by supercomputing, which has already brought us breakthroughs in modeling, genomics, and promises to push humanity further forward as computing power increases at an exponential rate.
And Canada has some skin in the game, thanks to the University of Toronto’s cyberiron, which they recently announced ranks amongst the 20 fastest machines in the world. With the ability to process up to 360 trillion calculations a second and more than 60,000 times the power of a personal computer, the U of T supercomputer, named the iDataPlex, has more power than the entire computing capacity of the planet in 2001.
“If you gave a calculator to every single man, woman and child in Canada and had them each do one calculation per second, it would take the entire country four months to do what this machine does every second,” says Chris Loken, chief technical officer at SciNet.
The University of Toronto plans to use iDataPlex to enhance their competitive position in global research projects in aerospace, astrophysics, bioinformatics, chemical physics, medical imaging, and climate change prediction, by analyzing high-resolution global models to predict future risks, including the faster-melting Artic sea ice. Another immediate project is the construction of regional climate change predictions for Ontario and the Great Lakes watershed region. The system will also play a part in analyzing data from the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva.