Most of us just reach for a Lemsip - but a new supercomputer could be mankind's ultimate weapon in the battle against flu.
The most powerful computer ever built - called Titan, and capable of 20,000 trillion calculations per second - will turn on 'in weeks'.
It will answer questions such as creating new vaccines, analysing new strains of flu, and designing new forms of solar power.
The Titan machine uses PlayStation-style graphics processors to 'crunch' huge amounts of data - and will have an annual electricity bill of up to $25 million.
The machine, located at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, will use Nvidia graphics processors to decode new strains of flu and 'test' vaccines at incredible speed.
Graphics processors, used in games consoles such as PlayStation and Xbox, are able to compute in parallel, tackling hundreds of computing tasks at the same time, which means they can outperform old-style CPU processors.
As a result, Titan will be the fastest computer ever made, beating the current record-holder, Sequoia, which is used to simulate nuclear weapon detonations.
“All areas of science can benefit from this substantial increase in computing power, opening the doors for new discoveries that so far have been out of reach,” said Jeff Nichols, associate laboratory director for Computing and Computational Sciences at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
“Titan will be used for a variety of important research projects, including the development of more commercially viable biofuels, cleaner burning engines, safer nuclear energy, and more efficient solar power.”
Jaguar was already the United States’ most powerful supercomputer, capable of 2,300 trillion calculations each second before its recent upgradesx.
The same number of calculations would take an individual working at a rate of one per second more than 70 million years.
When the upgrade process is completed this autumn, the system will be renamed Titan and will be capable of 10 to 20 petaflops - 20,000 trillion calculations per second.
“During our upgrade, we have kept our users on Jaguar every chance we get,” said Jack Wells, director of science at the OLCF,
“We have already seen the positive impact on applications, for example in computational fluid dynamics, from the doubled memory.”
“Applications that were squeezing onto our Cray XT5 nodes can now make full use of the 16-core processor. Doubling the memory can have a dramatic impact on application workflow,” Wells said.
“The new Gemini interconnect is much more scalable,” Wells added, “helping applications like molecular dynamics that have demanding network communication requirements.”
GPUs will add a level of parallelism to the system and allow Titan to reach 10 to 20 petaflops within the same space as Jaguar and with essentially the same power requirements. While the Opteron processors have 16 cores and are therefore able to carry out 16 computing tasks simultaneously, the GPUs will be able to tackle hundreds of computing tasks at the same time.
With nearly 1,000 GPUs now available, researchers will have an opportunity to optimize their applications for the accelerated Titan system.
“This is going to be an exciting year in Oak Ridge as our users take advantage of our new XK6 architecture and get ready for the new NVIDIA Kepler GPUs in the fall,” Wells said. “A lot of work by many people is beginning to pay off.”