Neurophilosophy

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Designed and built by IBM, at a cost of some $130 million, Roadrunner is the world’s fastest supercomputer. It contains 12,960 IBM PowerXCell 8i central processing units, 6,480 AMD dual-core processors, and occupies nearly 6,000 square feet at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.

Roadrunner will primarily be used to simulate the behaviour of nuclear weapons, but will also be used for astronomy, genomics and climate change research. Last weekend, to put it through its paces, researchers ran a program called PetaVision, which models more than 1 billion neurons and trillions of synapses in the human visual system.

While running this program, Roadrunner broke the world record for computing performance: it operated at petaflop per second processing speeds, performing a mind-boggling million billion (or quadrillion) calculations per second.

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Comments

  1. #1 Josh
    June 16, 2008

    Hmm, 6000 square feet. Slightly less efficient than the few cubic centimetres of visual cortex that normally does this work. Usually takes 30 years to get a microprocessor that does what a floor-sized computer used to do, right?

    And, I’ll bet they’ll be using more than the few watts of glucose that the brain uses to power itself.

  2. #2 Ian
    June 16, 2008

    “Slightly less efficient than the few cubic centimetres of visual cortex that normally does this work”

    Given that the underlying systems that eventually produced the visual cortex had some 4 billion years of development, I’d say IBM is doing rather well so far….

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