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Oak Ridge Lab Supercomputer Doubles Performance 89

Anonymous Coward writes "The most powerful supercomputer available for general scientific research in the United States has undergone an upgrade that's doubled its peak performance. The Cray XT3 supercomputer at Tennessee's Oak Ridge National Laboratory can now perform up to 54 trillion calculations per second, up from its previous peak of 25 trillion calculations. 'It is probably the fifth-fastest machine' in the world, said Thomas Zacharia, associate laboratory director. 'It is clearly the fastest open-science machine in the U.S. today.'"
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Oak Ridge Lab Supercomputer Doubles Performance

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  • by flinxmeister ( 601654 ) on Saturday August 26, 2006 @10:43AM (#15984865) Homepage
    for the Vista upgrade.

    Jumping the gun a bit, probably.
  • by queenb**ch ( 446380 ) on Saturday August 26, 2006 @10:44AM (#15984868) Homepage Journal
    Now that we have all that horsepower, the big decision comes....what to do with it? I have some suggestions that I think would greatly benefit mankind as a whole.

    1) Decrypt NSA keys so we can spy on them for a change
    2) Develop a fool-proof method of determing what is spam and forwarding it all to Bill Gates
    3) Calculate winning lotto numbers and donate the money to random charities
    4) Develop an algorythm that decides where to go for dinner
    5) Figure out how to make a pad that acutally stays in place AND doesn't stick to my a$$

    2 cents,

    • by legoburner ( 702695 ) on Saturday August 26, 2006 @11:00AM (#15984916) Homepage Journal
      My christening of a new, uber-machine is normally done with the very very old-style pong. Nothing like multiple Ghz on multiple cores with a projector, TBs of HDD space and it all being used to run classic pong. Especially high-def classic pong.
      • I think you just gave me a new goal in life. I would also like to run MadOnion on that sucker just once.
      • The real Oak Ridge reason for upgrade - solar system simulation gaming:

        "Oh, I've heard of worse," said Ford, "I read of one planet off in the seventh dimension that got used as a ball in a game of intergalactic bar billiards. Got potted straight into a black hole. Killed ten billion people."
        "That's mad," said Mella.
        "Yes, only scored thirty points too."
        Our labs are prepared for our uber-rich Magrathea - customer overlords.
    • Speaking of which, what exactly is the machine calculating right now? Oak Ridge's tax return?
    • by GrEp ( 89884 )
      3) Calculate winning lotto numbers and donate the money to random charities

      (Ben) Pak Ching Li [umanitoba.ca] is the guru if you are actually interested.

      (link) [wiley.com] to one of his papers.
    • by wavflux ( 998071 )
      Thats good QueenB. Maybe it could fix or even find Bush's brain 100000000X.This alone would make news and be a good PR stunt for Cray Power.
  • Awesome (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Donniedarkness ( 895066 ) <Donniedarkness@g ... .com minus punct> on Saturday August 26, 2006 @10:45AM (#15984872) Homepage
    That's awesome. You know what's a shame, though?

    I live in Tennessee, not too far from Oak Ridge (45 mins away). Most kids don't even know that there are labs there. The teachers don't mention them in school, and nobody cares.

    Honestly, there's not much in Tennessee that's special (I've lived here for all 18 years of my life), so I wish they'd actually TELL us about the awesome stuff we _DO_ have near us.

    • Re:Awesome (Score:5, Insightful)

      by gbjbaanb ( 229885 ) on Saturday August 26, 2006 @10:53AM (#15984891)
      Don't whinge to slashdot about it, phone the labs, phoen the school principal, get a few school trips round there organised. I doubt they'll see much (I understand they don't have any flashing lights and spinning tape drives anymore, which is when computers looked like they were big, powerful and doing important stuff) but I'm sure there'll be scientists more than happy to show them something impressive and talk about what they're up to.
      • I'm sure there'll be scientists more than happy to show them something impressive and talk about what they're up to.
        Maybe, maybe not. The National Labs have security measures in place that probably prohibit visits by the public.
        • Re:Awesome (Score:5, Informative)

          by beamdriver ( 554241 ) <beamdriver@gmail.com> on Saturday August 26, 2006 @11:43AM (#15985017) Homepage
          Actually, we [bnl.gov] encourage people to visit us. Either during the summer [bnl.gov] or any time they want to schedule a tour [bnl.gov].

          Of course, there's no major weapons work going on at BNL. At least, none that I know of.

          • Re:Awesome (Score:5, Interesting)

            by Chineseyes ( 691744 ) on Saturday August 26, 2006 @12:13PM (#15985103)
            Yes and I'd like to thank you and everyone else at BNL I was a student at Brentwood HS and at 16 around 1997 or so I was allowed to visit BNL once a week for a few months and even had a mentor. I was allowed to see the particle accelerator you have there and witness a lot of the projects that were ongoing. I also learned a lot of simple concepts such as the Norton and Thevenin equivalents, current divider rules, and even got a brief (although confusing at the time) introduction to second order LRC ciruits. The simple exposure to many of these concepts got me started on my path to Computer Engineer as a major. If it wasn't for some of the fine people at BNL I might have never chosen Computer Engineering as a major and made a career out of something that I love to do. Out of curiosity do they still have a mentoring program there?
          • Apparently, so do they [ornl.gov].
      • by rthille ( 8526 )
        Well, there's probably screens to see and scientists who could talk about how being able to do the calcualtions are very important to their work. Good scientists are perhaps not as expressive as artists but I think if they are passionate about their work they can still impress that upon some young people.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by chillax137 ( 612431 )
        I took a tour of the supercomputing facilities at the University of Oklahoma, and there was actually a lot of stuff for us to see and talk about. The air conditioning system for this room had like three fail safes, and if they all failed, the temperature of the room would increase by somewhere around 3 degrees per second. The director actually had flashing lights installed on the rack of computers. He said that when the state board of regents came around to distribute funding, it was a lot easier to persuad
      • From http://www.ornl.gov/ornlhome/visiting.shtml#publi c [ornl.gov]

        "Public Tours

        The 2006 DOE Oak Ridge Facilities Public Tour continues through Friday, Sept. 29. The 2 ½-hour tour begins and ends at the American Museum of Science and Energy, 300 S. Tulane, Ave., Oak Ridge. The tour is open to U.S. citizens 10 years of age and older. Charge is $3-$5 and registration is conducted the morning of each tour at the museum. The route focuses on DOE missions and the history of Oak Ridge. The program highlights all three
      • I'm from Knoxville, we toured it fairly regularly.

        The have touristy places to go like fake cutaway life size reactor cores (the graphite reactor is especially nice). We got to see things that glowed VERY bright from radioactivity as they came out of some reactor core. And quite a few other things.

        The have a "science museum" that you don't even need permission to go to - anyone can. The Hiroshima and Nagasaki exhibit is especially good (from discussion and pictures on radiation poisoning to life size models
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by matthewcraig ( 68187 )
      I guess they don't call Oak Ridge "the secret city" for nothing, then!
    • Tell all the teachers you want. The gov't is not going to let just anyone in there. I used to work for Cray and upgraded the X1 they have there. Like an earlier poster mentioned, lots of power but little eye candy.
    • True here where I live in Washington state in the town I live in there was a hardware company that made static hard drives for the goverment and for those black box's in airplanes. Most people in town never heard of the place. Only until after they left for another town did I meet someone that knew about the place just because his mom used to work there and big some big wig.
    • Re:Awesome (Score:4, Funny)

      by Pollardito ( 781263 ) on Saturday August 26, 2006 @12:35PM (#15985155)
      maybe The Oak Ridge Boys could sing a song about the lab to raise public awareness (to the tune of Elvira) :

      I'm singin'
      El Jaguar, El Jaguar
      Five thousand Opterons on fire, El Jaguar

      Giddy Up Oom Poppa Omm Poppa Mow Mow
      Giddy Up Oom Poppa Omm Poppa Mow Mow
      Heigh-ho Silver, away

      Tonight I'm gonna ray trace me a big ol' honkin' scene
      And I'm gonna give her all the poly's I can, yes I am
      She's gonna have lights, shades and fill-ins
      'Cause I saved up my last two hundred million
      We're gonna go and find that researcher man
    • Honestly, there's not much in Tennessee that's special (I've lived here for all 18 years of my life)

      I suspect your belief that there is little special in Tennessee has more to with your lack of experience than any lack in the state. Grow up and get out more.
    • by errxn ( 108621 )
      I used to live in Oak Ridge as a kid, and loved it. It's a weird town, but it's pretty cool, for what it is. Don't forget about the Graphite Reactor. If the tour is the same as it was back in the day, you can see the spent fuel rods cooling in the water tank. They glow a nice blue. I'm not a physicist, but they claimed that it was perfectly safe.

      As far as the rest of East Tennessee, are you kidding? There's a *ton* of cool stuff to do. For starters, take a trip to the Smoky Mountains. Very nice. Th
    • by trip11 ( 160832 ) *
      Oak Ridge Labs. The first nuclear reactor. The cesium forest. Nuclear airplane crash zone. Radioactive frogs. More too.

      They actually even let you go visit the first two. The last three being failed experiments that are still a bit too hot for the everyday public. Kind of blew my mind when I first read about them. Just google for each with the prefix "oak ridge".

      As a physicist though, the most interesting experiment there is the new Spallation Neutron Source http://www.sns.gov/ [sns.gov] which is being fi

    • I recall visiting ORNL as part of a recruiting visit to UT-Knoxville (the position offered a joint appointment at ORNL -- how cool is that?)

      Two curious events from that trip:

      First, I was working at the University of Chicago at the time, and when I checked in with security I had to sign in. I remember it being a wood building that looked like it had been built in the 1940s as a "temporary" war-building and never replaced. It gave me an odd feeling to sign in with security in a 1940s-looking building as Dr.
    • I currently live about 7 miles from the lab. It bugs me sometimes to be along a pretty decent technology corridor running from a bit east of Alcoa through Knoxville and west to Oak Ridge, and have people assume there's nothing here in East Tennessee but hillbillys. There are about a thousand people with PhDs in chemistry, physics, or math related fields living or working within 10 miles of me, dozens of very cutting edge tech related businesses, at least 3 high speed providers for residential use in my neig
    • by Nathan ( 2717 )
      I grew up in Nashville, 3-4 hours from Oak Ridge. And my HS went to a few of the ORNL programs. At least back then (1990's) they had great programs. It's one of the reasons I went into computers, I thank them for that. Maybe it's not ORNL, maybe it's your high school/teachers. Get involved, go find out what is available and present it to the teachers!
    • by triso ( 67491 )
      Honestly, there's not much in Tennessee that's special (I've lived here for all 18 years of my life), so I wish they'd actually TELL us about the awesome stuff we _DO_ have near us.
      Jack Daniel's, the Great Smoky Mountains and Graceland to name a few. Its all in how you look at things.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    They have to double it every 18 months.
  • Imagine! (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Imagine a beowulf cluster of these!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 26, 2006 @11:05AM (#15984932)
    Did someone lean on the turbo button?
    • by solitas ( 916005 )
      No - they just took a flip-flop out of the clock chain. In another 18 months they'll do it again - just think: in three years they can eliminate an entire 7470!
    • by nurb432 ( 527695 )
      No, its just an easy 'upgrade'. build in the speed, and when the customer pays more, you go in, spend a few days pretendending to do an upgrade when all you do is flip a swtich somewhere.

      ( yes im kidding, but it has been done in the past... intentoinally crippling hardware so that there is 'room for growth' when you pay more )
    • by shanec ( 130923 )
      Nope, they just flipped the switch from "magic," to "more magic."

      (Kudos to all anyone who recognizes that!)

      As far as tours, and such, check out the AMSE - American Museum of Science and Energy [amse.org]. I don't know that they stop by the labs, but you'll get a pretty good idea of "The Secret City project," Oak Ridge's history during WWII, and how OR is morphing into a center for research in all areas.

      (Disclaimer: I work for the DOE, in Oak Ridge, so I see this stuff all the time.)


    • by Jambon ( 880922 )
      Maybe. That or the Easy Button.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 26, 2006 @11:13AM (#15984954)
    In ST:TNG, Lt. Commander Data does 60 trillion operations per second. If they could just squeeze 6 more trillion operations out of that supercomputer, and get the right software and memory access speed, and fit it all into a Mac Mini-sized space, we could have our first sentient starfleet officer ready before Dr. Sung.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Digitus1337 ( 671442 )
      He was rated at 60 trillion operations per second until Ep. #134, at which point something was done with bidirectional sequencing and his main interlink sequencer was converted to asynchronous operation. The size of his positronic links were no longer a bottleneck, and he was able to compute at a new and improved, but unspecified, speed.
  • by caudron ( 466327 ) on Saturday August 26, 2006 @11:23AM (#15984968) Homepage
    Does it use Blue Ray or HD-DVD?

    Tom Caudron
    http://tom.digitalelite.com/ [digitalelite.com]
  • by Bromskloss ( 750445 ) <auxiliary.addres ... y@ g m a i l.com> on Saturday August 26, 2006 @11:27AM (#15984982)
    How is the speed measured? Blurb says "54 trillion calculations per second", but what kind of calculations is it? Moving of register content? Multiplication of 64 bit floating point numbers?
  • by owlnation ( 858981 ) on Saturday August 26, 2006 @11:35AM (#15985001)
    question of life the universe and everything it was not, of course, as big as the Earth. A computer so large that it was often mistaken for a planet. Except by the IAU who saw through the Earth's feeble attempt to be considered a planet and reclassified it as a large pocket calculator...

    Whether the inhabitants of Earth's matrix retaliate by reclassifying astronomers as pseudoscientists remains to be seen...
  • by $RANDOMLUSER ( 804576 ) on Saturday August 26, 2006 @11:36AM (#15985003)
    Johnny: Wow, I tell ya, that new Oak Ridge supercomputer is fast.
    Crowd: How fast is it?
    Johnny: Awh, it's so fast, it'll do an infinite loop in seven seconds.
    MaMahon: Yessss!
  • It is times 2.16 when going from 25 to 54 trillion, not just times 2. Does that thing run on Pentiums?
  • adding more pipes so the internet can run faster?
  • Yes, but (Score:1, Troll)

    by hcdejong ( 561314 )
    (avoiding the obvious)
    ...was it designed on a Mac?
  • "Ah, so that's what that turbo button does!"
  • 2 month old news (Score:3, Informative)

    by kill-1 ( 36256 ) on Saturday August 26, 2006 @12:44PM (#15985182)
    The original press release:

    http://investors.cray.com/phoenix.zhtml?c=98390&p= irol-newsArticle&ID=873357 [cray.com]

    All they do is upgrade to dual-core Opterons, hence the double performance.
    • by wavflux ( 998071 )
      All they do is upgrade to dual-core Opterons, hence the double performance. I would think some of the higher end P Chips dual core 2MB cache would have over taken the AMD for the CRAY
  • So this public computer is now processing at 54 Teraflops? In the Terminator series didn't Skynet take over the world when it reached 60?

    I for one welcome our new supercomputer overlords.

  • ... that's just the minimum recommended system configuration for release 2 of the Windows Vista Home edition.
  • 50 times faster than the original Peacer bobbler, and probably with better accuracy.

    Not to shabby.
  • When does it come onto the market? And can I put Linux on it?
  • ... to play doom.
  • Maybe they could find Bush's brain with it.Or atlases narrow it to a 100 mile radius.The Skynet Corp. can probally help out at 60 Terafloppies!!!

Computer programmers do it byte by byte.