Ever since the former Soviet Union launched Sputnik into orbit, the United States and other countries have been involved in a race that saw us reach the moon first, and still awaits the first manned expedition to reach Mars. Fascinating as that is, however, it has been supplanted in scientific circles by another competition—the race to build the fastest computer ever.

According to multiple Internet sources, we and others are now involved in an international race to build an exascale supercomputer, a system that will compute at speeds unheard of at present. The sources note that the most powerful systems today are measured in petaflops, meaning they're capable of quadrillions of operations per second. An exascale system is measured in exaflops, an exaflop being 1 quintillion (or 1 million trillion) floating point operations per second. China, Europe and Japan are all reportedly working on exascale computing platforms.

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