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U.S. Is Again Home to World’s Speediest Supercomputer

The United States just won bragging rights in the race to build the world’s speediest supercomputer.


For five years, China had the world’s fastest computer, a symbolic achievement for a country trying to show that it is a tech powerhouse. But the United States retook the lead thanks to a machine, called Summit, built for the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee.

五年来,拥有世界速度最快运算机的都是中国。这是一个国家试图展现其科技大国地位的象征性成就。但美国凭着为田纳西州橡树岭国家实验室(Oak Ridge National Laboratory)建造的一台名叫“巅峰”(Summit)的机器,得以复新领先。

Summit’s speeds, announced on Friday, boggle the mind. It can do mathematical calculations at the rate of 200 quadrillion per second, or 200 petaflops. To put in human terms: A person doing one calculation a second would have to live for more than 6.3 billion years to match what the machine can do in a second.


Still stupefying? Here is another analogy. If a stadium built for 100,000 people was full, and everyone in it had a modern laptop, it would take 20 stadiums to match the computing firepower of Summit.


China still has the world’s most supercomputers over all. And China, Japan and Europe are developing machines that are even faster, which could mean the American lead is short-lived.


Supercomputers like Summit, which cost $200 million in government money to build, can accelerate the development of technologies at the frontier of computing, like artificial intelligence and the ability to handle vast amounts of data.


Those skills can be used to help tackle daunting challenges in science, industry and national security — and are at the heart of an escalating rivalry between the United States and China over technology。


Supercomputers now perform tasks that include simulating nuclear tests, predicting climate trends, finding oil deposits and cracking encryption codes。 Scientists say that further gains and fresh discoveries in fields like medicine, new materials and energy technology will rely on the approach that Summit embodies。


“These are big data and artificial intelligence machines,” said John E. Kelly, who oversees IBM Research, which helped build Summit. “That’s where the future lies.”

“这就是大数据和人工智能机器,”负责监管IBM研发中心(IBM Research)的约翰·E·凯利(John E. Kelly)说,他也负责了“巅峰”的建造。“这就是未来所在。”


The global supercomputer rankings have been compiled for more than two decades by a small team of computer scientists who put together a Top 500 list. It is led by Jack Dongarra, a computer scientist at the University of Tennessee. The newest list will not be released until later this month, but Mr. Dongarra said he was certain that Summit was the fastest.

全球超级运算机排名已经开展了20多年,由运算机科学家组成的一个小团队编纂了500强名单。该团队由田纳西大学(University of Tennessee)的运算机科学家杰克·唐加拉(Jack Dongarra)带领。最新名单将在本月晚些时候公布。但唐加拉表示他确定最快的肯定是“巅峰”。

At 200 petaflops, the new machine achieves more than twice the speed of the leading supercomputer in November, when the last Top 500 list was published。 That machine is at China’s National Supercomputing Center in Wuxi。


Summit is made up of rows of black, refrigerator-size units that weigh a total of 340 tons and are housed in a 9,250 square-foot room。 It is powered by 9,216 central processing chips from IBM and 27,648 graphics processors from Nvidia, another American tech company, that are lashed together with 185 miles of fiber-optic cable。


Cooling Summit requires 4,000 gallons of water a minute, and the supercomputer consumes enough electricity to light up 8,100 American homes.


The global supercomputer sprint comes as internet giants like Amazon, Facebook and Google in the United States and Alibaba, Baidu and Tencent in China take the lead in developing technologies like cloud computing and facial recognition.




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