Roadrunner supercomputer reaches full speed

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Less than a week after the Los Alamos National Laboratory's Roadrunner supercomputer began operating at record-breaking speeds, researchers are using the device to analyse "extremely complex" neurological processes..

The petaflop-scale supercomputer, which is based on the Cell chips used in PlayStation consoles and runs on Linux, can perform a mind-boggling million billion calculations s second.

Los Alamos and IBM researchers have used three different computational codes to test the machine, including one dubbed 'PetaVision'.

PetaVision models the human visual system, mimicking the billion-plus visual neurons and trillions of synapses in the human brain.

The scientists explained that, because there are about a quadrillion synapses in the human brain, human cognition is a petaflop per second computational problem.

Los Alamos researchers used PetaVision to model more than a billion visual neurons surpassing the scale of one quadrillion computations a second.

The scientists also used PetaVision to reach a new computing performance record of 1.144 petaflop/s.

The achievement throws open the door to achieving "human-like cognitive performance" in electronic computers, according to the researchers.

"Roadrunner ushers in a new era for science at Los Alamos National Laboratory," said Terry Wallace, associate director for science, technology and engineering at Los Alamos.

"Just a week after formal introduction of the machine to the world, we are already doing computational tasks that existed only in the realm of imagination a year ago."
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