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Researchers at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) in New Mexico have used microprocessors developed for the PS3 to power the fastest supercomputer on earth, the Roadrunner. This new extreme machine will help to model the world's physical reactions in the face of extremely complex, multivariate situations--like the future of changing weather patterns or radioactive fallout simulations. LANL brass, like other supercomputer researchers across the country, have been looking to amp up aging extreme machines. They recognized that the PS3's powerhouse microchip core, the Cell, had computational power that could make their own virtual calculations both faster and "smarter"--a term used to describe a computer's ability to handle multiple problems at once.
Programmers at LANL first worked with IBM to tweak the Cell in 2007, and have now fully integrated it into Roadrunner. LANL announced today that it has broken supercomputer speed records by performing 1.026 quadrillion calculations per second (in computing language, 10^15 calculations per second, a long coveted goal, is known as a petaflop). That's more than twice as many as the world's previous fastest supercomputer at Livermore National Laboratory California.