nec earth simulator

In 1997 a team of Japanese engineers dared to imagine a computer so powerful that it could keep track of everything in the world at once — steaming rain forests in Bolivia, factories in Mexico belching smoke, the jet stream, the Gulf Stream, the works. What's more, they dared to build it. On March 11, 2002, when they turned it on, the engineers did something no mere mortal had ever done before: they created the Earth.

Or at least the next best thing. The Earth Simulator, the most powerful supercomputer ever built, was designed for a single purpose: to create a virtual twin of our home planet. Before the Earth Simulator arrived, the fastest computer in the world was an American military machine that can perform 7.2 trillion calculations per second. The Earth Simulator runs at more than 35 trillion calculations per second, almost five times faster. In fact, it's as powerful as the next 12 fastest supercomputers in the world put together. Located at a vast, newly built facility in Yokohama, the Earth Simulator is the size of four tennis courts. The price tag? Around $350 million.

It was worth every penny. By plugging real-life climate data from satellites and ocean buoys into the Earth Simulator, researchers can create a computer model of the entire planet, then scroll it forward in time to see what will happen to our environment. Scientists have already completed a forecast of global ocean temperatures for the next 50 years, and a full set of climate predictions will be ready by year's end. Soon, instead of speculating about the possible environmental impact of, say, the Kyoto accord, policymakers will be able to plug its parameters into the virtual Earth, then skip ahead 1,000 years to get a handle on what effect those policies might have. That kind of concrete data could revolutionize environmental science. By digitally cloning the Earth, we might just be able to save it. via.

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