The U.S. has taken the lead over China with the world's fastest supercomputer

Posted on FEB 09, 2019

Summit is the U.S. government's latest entry in the competitive world of supercomputers.

The U.S. has regained its position as having the world's fastest super computer, a $200 million government investment called Summit. For five years, China held that title, reports Steve Lohr for the New York Times (NYT), until Oak Ridge National Laboratory completed America's latest entry. According to NYT, Summit can do mathematical calculations at the rate of 200 quadrillion per second, or 200 petaflops. As Lohr explains it, a person doing one calculation a second would have to live for more than 6.3 billion years to match what Summit does in one second.

The benefits of supercomputers like Summit cannot be overstated. Besides its ability to handle vast amounts of data, Summit can be used to help tackle challenges in science, industry and national security. Scientists at government labs like Oak Ridge are doing exploratory research in areas like new materials to make roads more robust, writes Lohr, and designs for energy storage that might apply to electric cars or energy grids. One of the programs that Summit has begun processing data for is the Million Veteran Program, which enlists veterans to give researchers access to all of their health records.
Thomas Zacharia, lab director at Oak Ridge, explains that the insights from this program could "help us find new ways to treat our veterans and contribute to the whole area of precision medicine. Dr. Gaziano, a principal investigator on the Million Veteran Program also sees the benefits supercomputers like Summit provides. He explains that population science might be entering a new golden age, "we have all this big, messy data to create a new fieldrethinking how we think about disease. It's a really exciting time.