China / Innovation

China's 'magic cube' computer unlocks the future

(Xinhua) Updated: 2015-10-03 11:55

Using a supercomputer like a magic cube as tall as a two-story building, Chinese scientists want to calculate the future of the earth.

They hope to calculate almost everything in natural earth systems from the growing of a cloud to the changes of climate hundreds or thousands of years in the future with the buzzing, blue "magic cube", in the Zhongguancun Software Park in northern Beijing.

Several research institutes under the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), including the Institute of Atmospheric Physics, the Institute of Computing Technology, the Computer Information Center and Sugon Information Industry Company, have jointly unveiled the special supercomputer named the prototype of Earth System Numerical Simulator and the software "CAS Earth System Model 1.0" running on the device.

The prototype is about one tenth the size of a future earth simulator, which is still in design, and will be used by scientists to develop the final simulator, and conduct short-term climate forecasts and control of air pollution.

Ding Yihui, a member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering and an expert of China Meteorological Administration, said the prototype and the software are a breakthrough for China's development of the earth systems simulator, and will provide a solid basis for the integrated study of weather and climate.

Zhang Minghua, a researcher with the Institute of Atmospheric Physics, said the "CAS Earth System Model 1.0" includes the complete modules representing the climate and biological systems, all scientifically interconnected.

"The computing system can simulate the atmosphere, ocean currents, land surface processes and biological systems," Zhang said.

"Even factors from space like cosmic rays and solar wind can be simulated in the device, which is very powerful," said Ding, adding that the simulator could help scientists study climate changes at least 30 years ahead and the change of PM 2.5. air pollutant particles.

"It will play an important role in reducing greenhouse gases and improving the climate," Ding said.

Cao Zhennan, assistant to the CEO of the Sugon Information Industry Company, said earth system simulation needs a high-performance computer. The "magic cube", with a total investment of 90 million yuan (about $14 million dollars), has a peak computing power of at least 1 petaflop, making it one of China's 10 most powerful computers. Its total storage capacity is over 5PB.

Using the prototype of the Earth System Numerical Simulator, it takes about one day to calculate changes over six years in the atmospheric cycle, the water cycle, the rock and soil cycle, the biological cycle and other natural cycles, said Zhou Guangqing, director of the information center of the Institute of Atmospheric Physics.

According to Zhu Jiang, head of the Institute of Atmospheric Physics, the final simulator is expected to have a computing capacity 10 times higher than the current prototype.