Chinese Are Good At Math and Supercomputing, Go Figure - The UpStream

Chinese Are Good At Math and Supercomputing, Go Figure

posted Sunday Nov 14, 2010 by Jon Wurm

Chinese Are Good At Math and Supercomputing, Go Figure

The technology race doesn't just extend to companies. Just recently, the updated list of the world's 500 most powerful supercomputers was released and the U.S. has been moved to the #2 spot by none other than China. Their Tianhe-1A system, courtesy of China's National University of Defense Technology in Tianjin, is capable of performing 2.67 petaflops per second. Jaguar, the Cray XT5 system at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory is capable of 1.75 petaflops per second, which is still incredibly fast.

Hit the break to find out is we have anything to worry about.

This isn't the first time the U.S. has been dethroned, in 2004 the Japanese supercomputer NEC Earth Simulator took the top spot but of course, not for long. The Chinese pulling ahead in supercomputers doesn't come as a shock to Jeremy Smith, the director for Molecular Biophysics at the University of Tennessee, who states that technology improves very quickly,

What you find historically with these supercomputers is they become the normal machines five or 10 years later that everybody uses. The Jaguar machine that we're so amazed at right now, it could be every university or company has one, eventually.

Tianhe-1A does have amazing speed that is partially accomplished by some GPU (graphics processing unit) streamlining but it only really shines at the Linpack benchmark, which is a a system of solving linear equations. The purpose of a supercomputer is to solve a variety of complex problems and to have many applications for which it is useful so there is room for the Chinese to improve there. Also, Intel and Nvidia played a large role in the hardware category so in a round about way we played a part helping them get there. The point of saying that isn't to sound arrogant but to point out that it won't take long for them to truly become a contender for supercomputing supremacy in the future. Smith put it into proper context by saying,

I don't want to downplay what they've done. It's like pooh-poohing the original Toyota. The first Toyota was a pile of junk. But a few years later they were eating our lunch.

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