Dec 31, 2013, 8:27 AM |

33.86 - that's the number of petaflops achieved in 2013 by the new holder of the title "world's fastest computer".

Peta is a million billion - that's 10 to the power of 15. A flop is one floating point operation per second. Think of it as multiplying two really long numbers together in a second - that is a flop. So a petaflop computer can do a million billion long multiplications every second, and get them right.

When the list of fastest computers was published in June, China's new Tianhe-2 computer went straight in at number one. It achieved 33.86 petaflops, which was nearly twice as fast as the runner up, a computer called Titan in the US Department of Energy. It was still the fastest in the latest list published in November.

Tianhe-2Tiane-2 was built by the National University of Defense Technology

It's doing 33,860 million billion sums every second. Computing records seldom last long and two months before China's great leap forward the first one-petaflop computer, which was king in 2008, was decommissioned for being too slow.

When the next list comes out Tianhe-2 may beat itself. Its theoretical top speed is more than 50 petaflops but even that record may soon go because the geeks are betting on a 1 exoflop machine by 2017. That's a billion sums every billionth of a second.