According to Newsday (and reported worldwide), IBM and folks at Los Alamos have just raised the bar on computing power, with a $13 million, 20,000 processor, supercomputer nicknamed "Roadrunner". The thing can perform 1 quadrillion calculations (floating point operations, for those who care) in a single second.
From a sustainability standpoint, the bad news is that this single computer draws about about 4 megawatts of power -- more or less the same amount of energy as a modern railroad locomotive.
The potentially useful news is that most of the individual processors inside Roadrunner are upgraded versions of IBM's Cell chip, which was developed to power the PlayStation 3 gaming system. As a result, describing what a sustainable electric grid might look like may have gotten more interesting. Previously, I'd been playing with the image of an "energy Internet" -- virtually universal connectivity, few huge utility suppliers, lots of small "personal utility" suppliers, no single point of failure. Now, with game processor technology gaining newfound respect, maybe I can take the image a step farther: electric supply as a massively multiplayer online network?
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