Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Two nice charts over at the NYTimes about the current state of supercomputers. Going from 1 teraflop in about 1996 to just over 1,000 teraflops twelve years later is indeed pretty cool. I hope you all notice that the current title-holder, by IBM and named Roadrunner, runs Linux

The charts could be a little better. For the graph, a log scale is really the only way to go, but it visually reduces advances made by the Japanese in recent years. The bubble chart, though, has at least two problems (someone forgot to read their Edward Tufte). Color is used for global region (almost continents), but the circles are already grouped by region and there are text labels indicating nation (which, if you know geography, indicates region). Color could have been used for something else, perhaps price or age of installation (newer might be faster). Also,within-nation relative position of the circles does not seem to have any significance at all. RPI (34) is in the upper right, and Rensselaer (in upstate NY) is indeed in the "upper right" of the US (the northeast). However, bordering the RPI circle in the upper right is USC (61), and since USC is the University of Southern California, obviously if there are an X and a Y axis, they are not geographical. Perhaps there is no X-Y, but there should be some logic to the national-level organization. However, overall the national clusters are indeed organized geographically, which would lead one to assume the same for the within-nation clusters.