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NASA Flagship Computer Pleiades

Monday April 26, 2010

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Reading Time: 6 minutes
Nasa pleiades
A visualization of the Ares-1’s main engine plume interacting during a type-4 stage separation with the Interstage, created at the NASA advanced supercomputing facility. The facility’s current top-end supercomputer, known as Pleiades, is the sixth-fastest computer on Earth, measured recently at 973 teraflops–or 973 trillion floating point operations a second.(Credit: Goetz Klopfer, NASA Exploration Systems MissionDirectorate)

People are always talking about the times that they can vividly remember where they were when it happened. Significant events that shaped the world, moments that signified and let people know, as Bob Dylan would say, “The Times They are A-Changin”. Sometimes beautiful and other times ugly, there are definitely moments in my life, that as it was happening, I said to myself, “the world will never be the same”. I remember as a young child hearing stories from my parents about times in their lives that changed the world as they or anyone for that matter knew it. I would think to myself, and ask if one day something even close to comparable to the events that my father and mother lived through would happen in my lifetime.

I was born into the age of computers, despite the Internet being a relative baby, there were people who understood even back in 1984 that computers were going to revolutionize the way we live. I am not sure my parents understood it back then, but there were people that were the same age I am now who knew that they were walking into uncharted territory. I have to imagine that my grandparents felt the same way about the idea of people going into Space and eventually to the moon, as the people in the 80’s felt about computers and eventually a world wide web. My generation is the generation of space and Internet combined, one could say almost Universal; with computers, we can create here on earth, environments and occurrences that only happen in the vast expanses of space. I think about what my grandparents might have said about going into space, or what my parents said about the possibilities of the Internet, and what my generation will say about what is to come?

Just what kind of computer does NASA use to achieve the impossible? The advanced supercomputing facility at the Ames Research Center is the home of NASA’s flagship computer they have named Pleiades; Pleiades is an open star cluster containing middle-aged hot B-type stars located in the constellation of Taurus. NASA Pleiades, not a star cluster, it is the sixth fastest giant computer in the world – with a current rating of 973 teraflops – or 973 trillion floating point operations per second. This computer, along with five other similar computers around the world, are bigger and faster than anything ever imagined and they are allowing us to consider possibilities we couldn’t have even dreamed of.

Super computers are only getting faster and more efficient allowing the world of science to explore and examine the furthest reaches of space. I look forward to the day when I will look back on an historic monumental event in my lifetime short of terrorist attacks and war. The universe is 99.99 percent unexplored, computers like Pleiades will help us explore and understand much more.


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