The definition of "supercomputer" slides all the time, but NASA's Columbia computer might well have its picture next to the word in the dictionary.
According to a popular ranking, the supercomputer at NASA's Ames Research Center near San Francisco is second in speed only to a computer that has not even been completed.
"Even though we're nominally No. 2 on the list right now, this is the No. 1 operational center," said Walt Brooks, chief of NASA's Advanced Supercomputing Division.
The computer -- named for the lost shuttle crew that included Kalpana Chawla, who used to work with the computing team at Ames -- is what one might call the ultimate hive brain.
NASA saw a need to do more complex simulations in the wake of the Columbia accident, and this computer can handle them. It also does sophisticated scientific research.
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