Faster Supercomputers: Your Tax Dollars at Work

On Monday, researchers will release a twice-yearly list of the 500 biggest computers in the world. The latest rankings should provide some new clues about high tech’s relentless speed race, and how it’s being funded.

National labs and other research institutions buy these supercomputers to handle huge number-crunching tasks, like modeling weather patterns, nuclear explosions and aircraft designs. They rely heavily on advances from the semiconductor industry, since each system uses thousands of microprocessor chips–typically supplied by Intel, Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) and IBM (IBM).

Rankings on the so-called Top500 list are determined by performing a set of mathematical calculations known as Linpack that indicate how fast a system is.

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