Historic proportions

11.08.08 -

If history is any guide, Blue Waters will be a unique national asset for scientists around the country.

1 calculation = 1 second
1 calculation = 1 second

In 2007, the National Science Foundation tapped the University of Illinois, its National Center for Supercomputing Applications, IBM, and partners around the country to build Blue Waters. When it comes online in 2011, Blue Waters, the first sustained-petascale computing system, will sustain more than 1 quadrillion calculations per second on significant real-world science and engineering applications. Think of that power.


1,000,000,000 calculations = 32 years
1 billion calculations = 32 years

A human doing a single mathematical calcluation per second would take about thirty-two years to complete 1 billion calculations. America was celebrating its bicentennial, and the first commercially developed supercomputer—the Cray-1—was being released.

1,000,000,000,000 calculations = 31,000 years
1 trillion calculations = 31,000 years

But that's nothing compared to 1 trillion calculations. At one calculation per second, you'd be starting 31 thousand years ago, when cavemen were creating the earliest cave paintings.

1,000,000,000,000,000 calculations = 31 million years
1 quadrillion calculations = 31 million years

Now move to 1 quadrillion calculations. You're beginning 31 million years ago, during the Cenozoic era. The Alps were beginning to rise in Europe, and ancestors to modern horses, dogs, and apes were coming on the scene.

1,000,000,000,000,000 calculations = 1 second
1 quadrillion calculations = 1 second

In 2011 researchers across the country will use the power of Blue Waters to solve problems in any scientific field imaginable. They'll model the weather and the stars, the behavior of new medicines, the movement of pandemic disease across a continent at a rate of 1 quadrillion calculations per second. Their discoveries will make us all healthier, safer, and more prosperous.


National Science Foundation

Blue Waters is supported by the National Science Foundation through awards ACI-0725070 and ACI-1238993.