What’s on : Lectures

Supercomputers for Science

11 Feb 2020
Start time
7:30 PM
Tempest Anderson Hall
Professor Matt Probert, University of York
Supercomputers for Science

Event Information

Supercomputers for Science
Professor Matt Probert, Department of Physics, University of York

What is a supercomputer? What is it used for? In this talk I will describe how to build your own supercomputer and what you can do with it! Computers are increasingly pervasive in all areas of life, but in science they have long been indispensable. In recent years, the rise of “computational physics” has been dramatic, and it is now recognized as being the “third way” of doing science, complementing the traditional approaches of theory and experiment. I will illustrate the talk with examples of current research on some of the largest supercomputers in the world.

Image: Current fastest computer in the world

Member’s report

Supercomputers are needed for calculations that require very large amounts of data, or very high speed. The UK’s best supercomputer is ‘Archer’ built in 2013 and soon to be replaced. It has 118,000 cores, 315,000 GiB memory, consumes 1.2 MW, and cost £43 million. The world’s most powerful supercomputer (currently) is ‘Summit’ in the USA, which has 2.2 million cores, consumes 8.8 MW, and cost $162 million. Over the last 60 years, peak power has approximately doubled every 1.5 years: Summit is 9 trillion times more powerful than the first supercomputer.

The major users for the top 500 supercomputers are changing – industrial use has grown to 58% and includes data mining by Amazon and others, followed by governmental research 20% and academic research 11%. China is now using 46% of the capacity, followed by the US at just 22%.

The many scientific applications include weather and climate modelling; CO2 sequestration in the deep oceans; modelling of the earth’s mantle and plate tectonics; modelling galaxy formation; and using quantum mechanics to identify better materials for batteries and solar cells.

You can’t actually build your own supercomputer…

Rod Leonard