China's supercomputer power grows

In the biannual Top 500 supercomputer list, China for the first time has two supercomputers appearing in the top ten fastest machines, but the U.S. continues to outmatch the rest of the world with over half located in the country. BBC News reports the Nebulae machine located in Shenzhen, at the National Super Computer Center, ranked second in the overall list at 1.20 petaflops.

The Jaguar computer, owned by Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, holds first position with a top speed of 1.75 petaflops. One petaflop is the equivalent of 1,000 trillion calculations per second. Scientists use the Tennessee supercomputer for research in astrophysics, climate science and nuclear energy. 

Manager of the Oxford Supercomputing Centre, Dr Jon Lockley, said China was becoming a "player" in the supercomputer field. "The Top 500 list definitely has an element of flag waving."

The Nebulae machine has a theoretical speed of nearly 3 petaflops and the Dawning company who built it is building an even faster machine with home-grown silicon chips in Tianjin. 

The UK's fastest machine at the University of Edinburgh has a speed of 0.27 petaflops and is one of 38 machines from the country to make the list. 

Dr Lockley said many industries are starting to use supercomputers "whenever possible" giving examples such as Formula One. However, most machines in the U.S. are owned by the government and used to monitor their nuclear weapon stockpile. 

Dr Lockley also noted the Top 500 list was voluntary, meaning many classified machines owned by governments are not included in the list. "The spooks have got some pretty big machines."

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