Strategic Weapons: December 7, 1999


The Clinton Administration is determined to end US nuclear weapons testing, replacing it with even more powerful computers to simulate the tests. The newest mega-computer, Blue Pacific, has 1,464 nodes, each of which has four PowerPC 604e processors and 1.8 gigabytes of RAM. Blue Pacific, dedicated on 28 Oct, reaches 4 trillion floating point operations per second; total memory is 4.6 terabytes. A low-powered copy of Blue Pacific used for unclassified tests has 352 nodes and can perform 950 billion operations per second. Under construction is ASCI White, a new ultra-computer which uses 512 nodes, each with eight Power3 processors, and (when finished) will be able to reach 10 trillion operations per second. But despite all of this, IBM and the Department of Energy agree that without an actual nuclear weapons test now and then to confirm that the simulations are giving the right answers and provide more data to refine future simulations, even 10 trillion operations per second is still garbage-in/garbage-out. --Stephen V Cole


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