Supercomputing had its first moment of fame when Deep Blue defeated chess champion Garry Kasparov in 1997. Today, supercomputers can do far more than checkmating grandmasters. Leading-edge systems, such as Blue Gene, are advancing into the regime of petaflop performance, i.e. 1 million billion calculations in a single second, or 500,000 times greater than that attainable with a desktop computer.
This tremendous computational capability is starting to enable large-scale simulations of real-world systems in all areas of science. Supercomputers are helping scientists discover the origins of the universe, understand climate change, anticipate virus mutations to prevent future pandemics, and decipher the complex operation of the human brain.