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How a Cardiff computer could solve the mystery of the universe
A multi-million pound supercomputer unveiled in South Wales could help solve the mystery of how stars are formed, accurately date ancient burial sites and even improve cancer treatment.
Scientists believe it could solve a year’s worth of every piece of homework every child in the UK has to complete – in just a few seconds.
In a nod to iconic Hollywood computers like Hal, the high-powered rogue machine featured in 2001: A Space Odyssey, the state-of-the-art machine has its own name. Called Merlin after the legendary Welsh wizard, it has the power of 2,000 laptops and is capable of handling 20,000 billion instructions per second. The project, funded by £2.9m of government money, was unveiled at Cardiff University yesterday. It is the third most powerful at a British university.
Computer expert Martyn Guest is in charge of ARCCA – Advanced Research Computing at the institution.
He said: “This project will open up a range of new research frontiers. Research projects in the fields of astrophysics, fluid dynamics, geological simulation, materials science, and molecular simulation amongst many others will see major benefits.
“The new supercomputer will enable us to compete on research terms with the best universities in the world, and provide a unique opportunity to deliver on ARCCA’s core mission of research enablement – our goal is to establish Advanced Research Computing as an invaluable tool for research across all schools.”
He claimed Merlin could be used to drastically cut the number of casualties in a disaster like 9/11. Provided with the right information it could have predicted the Twin Towers reaction to being hit by a jet.
The computer has been built by international IT company Bull. Chief executive Didier Lamouche said: “It’s capable of solving in a few seconds all the homework that all the UK’s students do in a year.”
Speaking at the launch at Cardiff University yesterday, First Minister Rhodri Morgan said: “This is very important for Wales and very important for Cardiff University and all its researchers.”
Vice chancellor Dr David Grant, said: “It will bring major benefits in the sciences and engineering and open up completely new research fields in the arts, humanities and social sciences. The new Cardiff high performance computing centre of excellence will keep the university at the forefront of these exciting possibilities in all of its academic disciplines.”