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New Supercomputer Comes Online At UC San Diego

Reported by Katie Schoolov

KPBS tech reporter David Wagner says UC San Diego's new system is helping to crack genomes, predict wildfires and explore the furthest reaches of the universe.

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To mark its 30th anniversary, the San Diego Supercomputer Center is celebrating the launch of a new platform for crunching big data.

To mark its 30th anniversary, the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC) is celebrating the launch of a new platform for crunching big data.

Photo by Katie Schoolov

Server rows fill the San Diego Supercomputer Center, Oct. 14, 2015.

Comet, the newest supercomputer on the UC San Diego campus, was officially launched on Tuesday. It can process two quadrillion (that's two followed by 15 zeroes) calculations per second.

Director Michael Norman said Comet shows how far computing has come since SDSC was founded.

"It is 2 million times as powerful as the first supercomputer we had when we opened our doors," Norman said.

In 1985, Norman said, supercomputers were only as powerful as an iPhone is today.

Comet is funded for the next five years by a grant from the National Science Foundation. Norman said that funding supports about 10 new jobs.

Researchers have used SDSC supercomputers to search a 115-year-old woman's genome for clues about why some people live so long.

Others are trying to predict how wildfires will develop in real-time, capture images of the furthest reaches of the universe and find treatments for diseases like Alzheimer's.

Norman said Comet will cater to researchers from all fields, because many disciplines now want to harness big data.

"In the old days it was physics, it was engineering, it was astronomy," Norman said. But now that huge amounts of data can be culled from social media and other untraditional sources, he said there's "growing interest from the social scientists and political scientists."

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