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World's wonder computer comes out from wraps.

After keeping the world's most powerful supercomputer a secret for a year, US government researchers showed off the pounds 78 million wonder yesterday .

With the ability to perform 12.3 trillion calculations a second, the supercomputer at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California will be used mainly to simulate how the nation's aging nuclear weapons arsenal would function if launched.

Those simulations must be as precise as possible because the United States suspended underground nuclear tests in 1992.

General John Gordon, the Department of Energy's under secretary for nuclear security, said the supercomputer - known as Accelerated Strategic Computing Initiative White, or ASCI White - was the key to the country assuring nuclear deterrence, though it has a vast number of other uses.

ASCI White is roughly as powerful as 50,000 desktop computers. It can store the equivalent of 300 million books, or six Libraries of Congress.

It has 8,192 microprocessors, housed in a series of black fridge-sized boxes linked together by 83 miles of wiring in a room the size of two basketball courts. ASCI White was designed for the government by IBM , which delivered it to Livermore last year in 28 articulated lorries.

A giant air-conditioning system that cools ASCI White requires three megawatts of electricity, enough for a small city.

ASCI White was designed for the government by IBM , which delivered it to Livermore last year in 28 articulated lorries. The mammoth computer is 1,000 times more powerful than Deep Blue, which defeated chess grand master Garry Kasparov in 1997.

Tomas Diaz de le Rubia, a program leader at Livermore, marvelled at how ASCI White has enabled his team to create three-dimensional models that can track the behaviour of one billion atoms at once.

'It opens up a whole new way of studying how materials behave, how they perform under different conditions, how they age,' he said. 'It's beautiful.'

It's also just the beginning. The government says that to certify the nuclear arsenal with full confidence, it needs a supercomputer that is 10 times as powerful as ASCI White by 2004.
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Aug 17, 2001
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