Liftoff for Blue Waters

One of the world's fastest supercomputers is up and running on the UI campus.

Last week marked the official launch of the Blue Waters supercomputer, one of the world's fastest, on the University of Illinois campus.

Now onlookers can sit back and watch as scientists use the $300 million machine to conduct important research in a variety of different fields.

The numbers associated with Blue Waters are mind-boggling. It operates at the speed of one petaflop — a thousand trillion operations per second. It will be used "24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year as a non-stop resource for science and engineering research," according to Trish Barker, the spokeswoman for the National Center for Supercomputing Applications.

Among the many areas of research where it will be put to work are the behavior of complex biological systems, the evolution of the cosmos, the behavior of hurricanes and tornadoes and complex engineering systems like power grids.

Suffice it to say, Blue Waters will be used to study the most complex and important problems of the day, and the possibilities for coming up with solutions seem almost endless.

Blue Waters — and other supercomputers like it — are not just game-changers, but world-changers.

What's stunning about this project is how close it came to running off the rails. Things looked bleak when IBM announced that it was withdrawing for financial reasons from its partnership with the UI and the National Science Foundation. Things looked considerably better when Cray Research announced its intention to take IBM's place. Things look great now that the supercomputer is up and running, ranking as the third fastest supercomputer in the world.

Science poses endless questions. Because of the super-charged computational power of Blue Waters, answers will be more easily obtained.

Sections (2):Editorials, Opinion
Categories (2):Editorials, Opinions

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