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We Have Reached the Limits of Computing Power, Says Supercomputer Expert

Some of the world’s leading engineers and physicists believe we are about to reach the limits of computing power, requiring a fundamental technological shift which we have yet to imagine. 

What’s the Latest Development?

Due to some rather strict physical constraints, the kind that come when working with atoms, we have nearly reached the limits of computing power, says High Performance Computing expert Thomas Sterling. The last major computing milestone was achieved in 2008 when the Los Alamos’ Roadrunner supercomputer reached petascale computing, or a quadrillion (10^15) floating point operations per second. But Sterling says we are unlikely to achieve Exascale computing (10^18 FLOPS) “without ripping  apart our existing ways of building supercomputers, root and branch.”

What’s the Big Idea?

Since the dawn of the supercomputer, the world’s best engineers have been able to create a next-generation machine with 1,000 times the power of its predecessor in cycles lasting about eleven years. The trend follows Moore’s Law, which states that computer power doubles roughly every 18 months. Like Sterling, physicist Michio Kaku also predicts that we will reach the end of Moore’s law within ten years. After that, we will transition to 3-dimensional chips, and eventually to quantum computers by the end the of the 21 century. 

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