The order calls for the new supercomputer to be 20 times quicker than the current world’s fastest, which is in China. The Chinese supercomputer, known as Tianhe-2 is capable of performing quadrillions of calculations per second, and is almost twice as fast as its closest rival, which was developed in America.
In addition to being able to make one quintillion (that is a billion billion, in case you wondered) calculations per second, this new supercomputer would be capable of running intricately complex simulations as an aid to scientific research.
Some practical applications could include improved methods of cancer diagnosis (based on X-Ray analysis), increased accuracy of weather forecasts and the eventual elimination of the costly wind tunnel testing used by NASA (due to the computer’s ability to accurately design more streamlined aircraft).
Experts have also suggested that the computer could be used to tailor personal medications to the physiologies of individual medical patients, something that would greatly improve the effectiveness of any prescription drug. It has even been put forward that this new computer could be used to create very accurate climate models, with a view towards analysing current trends and anticipating the resultant changes in climate.
Critics of the decision have suggested that, in addition to being very ambitious, the electricity required by this project will cost at least £60Million a year.
The outgoing President, who has served two terms in office since first being elected in 2009, has always been a strong supporter of technological innovation within the US. In his 2006 book The Audacity of Hope, the then-Senator from Illinois discussed a trip to Google’s headquarters in Silicon Valley, California, in which his fascination with computers and information technology was made abundantly clear.
“Larry (Page - Co-Founder of Google) asked the young Indian American engineer who was working nearby to explain what we were looking at. ‘These lights represent all the searches that are going on right now,’ the engineer said. ‘Each color is a different language. If you move the toggle this way’ – he caused the screen to alter – ‘you can see the traffic patterns of the entire Internet system’. The image was mesmerizing, more organic than mechanical, as if I were glimpsing the early stages of some accelerating evolutionary process, in which all the boundaries between men – nationality, race, religion, wealth – were rendered invisible and irrelevant, so that the physicist in Cambridge, the bond trader in Tokyo, the student in a remote Indian village and the manager of a Mexico City department store were drawn into a single, constant, thrumming conversation, time and space giving way to a world spun entirely of light”
But don’t get too excited, because even if all goes according to plan, this incredible feat of technology will still take at least a decade to design and build.