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A Texas supercomputer may soon be one of the most advanced processors in the world Rare Media Library
Rare Media Library

The University of Texas at Austin Stampede 2 computing system is already the fastest supercomputer at any university campus in the U.S.

And its newest upgrade could make it one of the top 10 globally because, experts agree: Stampeded 2 is fast.

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Really fast.

According to KUT, NPR’s Austin affiliate, its computing power is equal to 100,000 top of the line processor and already ranked 12th most-powerful in the world.

Reportedly rolled out this month, programmers developed a plan to push its capacity high enough to crack the top 10 list, jumping from 13 to 18 petraflops per second. This translates to 18 quadrillion computations every second.

Housed at UT-Austin’s J.J. Pickle research campus, Stampede 2 is said to help scientists crunch data at a volume it would take humans years to get through.

It also reportedly uses its massive computational strength to provide data models for things, like the collision tracks of black holes.

As scientists using Stampede 2 describe, it “can be doing everything, from weather forecasting, to astrophysics (and) galaxy formation modeling…” Tommy Minyard, systems director for the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC), said in an interview. “You name the science, and there’s probably somebody running on the system doing that kind of science.”

Reports show the system first came into play to help predict the paths of hurricanes Harvey and Irma in August and September of this year, and there’s another advantage to having the fastest supercomputing machines:

Weapons technology.

According to TACC Executive Director Dan Stanzione, there’s fierce competition among the world’s superpowers to possess the best machines, including on the battlefield.

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“Number one and two right now are in China,” Stanzione said in an interview. “The two or three fastest ones in the United States are at the Department of Energy – partially at the weapons labs, partially at the science labs.”

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Although it’s named the second, in reality, Stampede 2 is the third generation of supercomputer to live at UT-Austin – alongside Stampede 1 and Ranger before it – and experts say there are another four years in its lifespan before it is retired to make room for the next generation.

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