1.3 Hardware and Software

Computers can perform calculations and make logical decisions phenomenally faster than human beings can. Many of today’s personal computers can perform billions of calculations in one second—more than a human can perform in a lifetime. Supercomputers are already performing thousands of trillions (quadrillions) of instructions per second! China’s National University of Defense Technology’s Tianhe-2 supercomputer can perform over 33 quadrillion calculations per second (33.86 petaflops)!5 To put that in perspective, the Tianhe-2 supercomputer can perform in one second about 3 million calculations for every person on the planet! And supercomputing “upper limits” are growing quickly.

Computers process ...

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