December 3, 2020

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Japan’s coronavirus supercomputer named fastest in world

The Fugaku supercomputer topped the world rankings at once for the first time in history. It has been put to work creating models to fight the coronavirus pandemic, but its designers now have bigger plans for it.

A Japanese computer used to fight coronavirus has taken the top spot as the world’s fastest in all the supercomputer rankings for the first time, announced its developers on Monday.

The Fugaku supercomputer, developed by Japan’s Riken scientific research center and firm Fujitsu, is 2.8 times faster than the US-developed Summit supercomputer that is now in second place in the Top500 supercomputer rankings.

Japan’s computer also topped the HPCG, HPL-AI and Graph500 listings, “for the first time in history as a single machine simultaneously,” tweeted Riken director Satoshi Matsuoka.

All supercomputers run over 1000 times faster than a normal computer.

Helping combat coronavirus

Fugaku, which means Mount Fuji in Japanese, is expected to start full-time operation from April 2021, after six years of development.

The computer has already been put to work, fighting the coronavirus pandemic. It has been running simulations on how droplets would spread on office spaces with partitions installed or packed trains with windows open.

“I hope that the cutting-edge IT developed for it will contribute to major advances on difficult social challenges such as COVID-19,” Matsuoka said in a statement.

What are supercomputers used for?

Due to their super-fast processing powers, governments use supercomputers to simulate nuclear blasts to perform virtual weapons testing. They are also used for modelling climate systems and biotechnology research.

Naoki Shinjo, corporate executive officer of Fujitsu, said he hopes that: “Fugaku will show itself to be highly effective in real-world applications.” Shinjo added he hopes the supercomputer will play a role in forming Japan’s Society 5.0 project – a technology-based society pulling together AI, big data and the internet of things to develop society.

kmm/rc (AFP, Reuters) (DW)