From: Reuters
Published January 15, 2008 08:30 AM

Britain's fastest supercomputer unveiled

By Peter Griffiths

LONDON (Reuters) - A supercomputer that could help answer some of science's biggest questions will be unveiled on Monday.

With the power of 12,000 desktop PCs, the mammoth machine called HECToR is the country's fastest computer and one of the most powerful in Europe.

It can make 63 million million calculations each second, allowing scientists to conduct research into everything from climate change to new medicines.

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The purpose-built machine is housed in 60 wardrobe-sized cabinets in the University of Edinburgh's advanced computing centre near the Scottish capital.

After years of development, Chancellor Alistair Darling is due to attend the official launch ceremony for the 113 million pound machine.

"HECToR will enable us to do research that we simply could not do in any other way," said Jane Nicholson, of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, the public body which acts as the project's managing agent.

"We want to push forward the boundaries of knowledge."

Researchers will tap into its power to study ocean currents, build tiny parts for advanced computers and make warplanes less visible to radar.

Other projects include research into superconductors, combustion engines and new materials.

Scientists working in fields ranging from cosmology and atomic physics to disaster simulation and healthcare will also use the computer.

HECToR, which stands for High-End Computing Terascale Resource, was made the U.S. manufacturer Cray Inc.

Despite its vast power, it falls some way short of the world's biggest computer: Blue Gene/L.

Housed at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, it is used to study nuclear weapons without the need for underground testing.

(Editing by Steve Addison)

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