When the word ‘super’ is added as a prefix to a noun, you know that expectations will run high. Superman, Superwoman, Supercomputer…you get the idea. Well, Moore’s Law has certainly been in the groove for quite some time and shows no signs of slowing down or being skewed, and here we are on the brink of a horizon that might eventually see a machine run at least 1,000 times faster compared to today’s most powerful supercomputers. It is said that at the end of 2010, exaflop-rated computers will go online, with countries such as the US, China, Japan, the European Union and Russia investing heavily in supercomputer research.

Just what does exaflop mean? Well, computer scientists measure a supercomputer’s performance in terms of flops (FLoating Operations per Second), while “exa” represents quintillion (a billion billion). Basically, an exascale computer would mean performing the equivalent number of operations per second that is comparable to 50 million laptops. Someone will have to figure out how to handle all the heat generated from such raw processing power, not to mention making sure it sips power in an efficient manner.

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