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New initiatives scale up supercomputing.

To calculate the movements of a mere 600 atoms in an explosion-produced mixture of hydrogen fluoride and water vapor for 1 trillionth of a second, scientists have had to tie up the most powerful supercomputer available for about 15 days. With the unveiling last week of the computer dubbed ASCI White, they have a machine that can perform the task much more quickly.

Housed at the Lawrence Livermore (Calif.) National Laboratory (LLNL), ASCI White is a product of the National Nuclear Security Administration's Accelerated Strategic Computing Initiative (ASCI). The initiative is part of an effort to assess the safety and reliability of nuclear weapons without underground testing (SN: 10/19/96, p. 254). ASCI White represents just one of several new efforts to increase the computer power available to scientists.

Built by IBM from 8,192 of the company's commercially available processors, the $110 million computer can do 12.3 trillion operations per second, more than four times the peak rate previously attainable (SN: 11/12/98, p. 383). The machine represents the latest step in the drive to reach 100 trillion calculations per second by 2005.

To bring comparable computational power to a wider pool of researchers, the National Science Foundation earlier this month announced a $53 million program to connect existing supercomputers at four sites into a single computing resource. Called the Distributed Terascale Facility, or TeraGrid, the system will give researchers access to large data archives, remote instruments, sophisticated visualization tools, and other resources via high-speed networks.

"The TeraGrid will be a far more powerful and flexible scientific tool than any single supercomputing system," says Fran Berman of the San Diego Supercomputer Center, one of TeraGrid's participants. By April 2003, researchers should be able to tap into a combined system running at more than 11.6 trillion operations per second.

In yet another supercomputing initiative, the Department of Energy last week awarded a total of $57 million in research grants as part of its program to develop the software and hardware needed to use advanced computers effectively for scientific research.

The Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Ill., and its partners, for example, expect to receive $3.84 million over 3 years to develop systems that would allow physicists to receive up-to-the-minute data from particle accelerator experiments anywhere in the world. Current experiments already generate far more data than the World Wide Web can handle. Another aim of the new Fermilab program is to develop software that will streamline accelerator operation and design.
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Title Annotation:ASCI White computer aids computations for national laboratories
Author:Peterson, I.
Publication:Science News
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 25, 2001
Words:416
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