TrueNorth supercomputer will explode US nukes in virtual world

30 Mar 2016

A lab in the US has acquired a brain-inspired supercomputer from IBM that will explode the US’ nuclear weapons stockpile in the virtual world to determine the safety of the nation’s nuclear arsenal.

The brain-inspired supercomputer is called TrueNorth and is the result of IBM researchers creating a computer with the equivalent of 16m neurons and 4bn synapses, yet only consumes the same amount of power as a typical tablet computer at just 2.5W for its 16 TrueNorth chips.

Now, thanks to its ability to infer complex cognitive tasks, such as pattern recognition and integrated sensory processing, far more efficiently than conventional chips, the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) has announced it has recruited TrueNorth for a rather important mission.

Partnering with the National Nuclear Security Administration, (NNSA), the LLNL will apply its advanced machine learning and computational power to create a program that will determine the safety, security and reliability of the nation’s nuclear deterrent.

TrueNorth supercomputer

A 4×4 array of IBM TrueNorth chips in an industrial-grade enclosure. Image via IBM Research

‘Fundamental departure from computer design’

It will do this by virtually detonating its nuclear stockpile in the virtual world based on the scientific data it has from the 4,760 warheads it currently has deep within bunkers throughout the US.

Under terms of the contract, LLNL will receive an end-to-end ecosystem that helps create and program energy-efficient machines that mimic the brain’s abilities for perception, action and cognition.

According to IBM Research, TrueNorth represents a “fundamental departure from computer design” with it likely to play a part in the development of supercomputers 50-times faster than today’s most advanced petaflop (quadrillion floating point operations per second) systems.

Speaking of TrueNorth, Dharmendra S Modha, IBM Fellow, chief scientist, brain-inspired computing, IBM Research – Almaden, said: “This collaboration will push the boundaries of brain-inspired computing to enable future systems that deliver unprecedented capability and throughput, while helping to minimise the capital, operating and programming costs – keeping our nation at the leading edge of science and technology.”

Nuclear missile silo image via Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic