On December 6, IBM announced a new $100 million exploratory research initiative to build a supercomputer 500 times more powerful than the world’s fastest computers.
The new computer — nicknamed “Blue Gene” by IBM researchers — was capable of more than one quadrillion operations per second (one petaflop). This level of performance made Blue Gene 1,000 times more powerful than the Deep Blue machine that beat world chess champion Garry Kasparov in 1997.
Blue Gene’s massive computing power was initially used to model the folding of human proteins, making this fundamental study of biology the company’s first computing “grand challenge” since the Deep Blue experiment. Learning more about how proteins fold is expected to give medical researchers better understanding of diseases, as well as potential cures.