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The TITAN supercomputer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, currently one of the most powerful such systems worldwide. Photo: DOE

The Energy Department, Intel and subcontractor Cray Inc. announced Monday an agreement worth "more than $500 million" to provide Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois with the country's first "exascale" computer system.

Why it matters: When it begins operating in 2021, the new system, to be called Aurora, will be the most powerful supercomputer in the U.S. — more than five times faster than the current leader, which is the Summit supercomputer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee.

  • The transition to exascale computing involves a thousandfold increase in computing power from the petascale systems installed during the past decade, and it promises to open up a broader array of applications, such as precision medicine and AI.

Details: The Aurora computer will have the performance of one "exaFLOP," which is equal to a quintillion floating point computations per second, according to a press release and briefing from Intel.

The potential uses for this computer include:

  • Complex cosmological simulations to better understand the universe.
  • Precision medicine, such as testing new approaches for drug response prediction to treat cancer and other diseases.
  • Climate and extreme weather prediction.
  • Mapping the human brain down to the neural level.

Context: There's a race heating up between the U.S. and China for who has the most powerful supercomputer.

  • While it will be the most powerful system in the U.S. when it goes online in 2021, an Argonne National Lab spokesperson said it's not clear whether it will be the fastest computer in the world at that time.
  • Raj Hazra, vice president of Intel's enterprise and government group, told Axios that leading in computing power isn't nearly as important as what that nation does with its capabilities.
"From the perspective of winning the race, it’s not just getting to exascale, but what does exascale get you to that is important. The race matters in terms of stoking innovation. To compete you have to be able to compute."
— Hazra

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Scoop: Gina Haspel threatened to resign over plan to install Kash Patel as CIA deputy

CIA Director Gina Haspel. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

CIA Director Gina Haspel threatened to resign in early December after President Trump cooked up a hasty plan to install loyalist Kash Patel, a former aide to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), as her deputy, according to three senior administration officials with direct knowledge of the matter.

Why it matters: The revelation stunned national security officials and almost blew up the leadership of the world's most powerful spy agency. Only a series of coincidences — and last minute interventions from Vice President Mike Pence and White House counsel Pat Cipollone — stopped it.

Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus deaths reach 4,000 per day as hospitals remain in crisis mode — CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant could become dominant in U.S. in March.
  2. Politics: Biden says, "We will manage the hell out of" vaccine distribution — Biden taps ex-FDA chief to lead Operation Warp Speed amid rollout of COVID plan — Widow of GOP congressman-elect who died of COVID-19 will run to fill his seat.
  3. Vaccine: Battling Black mistrust of the vaccines"Pharmacy deserts" could become vaccine deserts — Instacart to give $25 to shoppers who get vaccine.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode againFed chair: No interest rate hike coming any time soon —  Inflation rose more than expected in December.
  5. World: WHO team arrives in China to investigate pandemic origins.

John Weaver, Lincoln Project co-founder, acknowledges “inappropriate” messages

John Weaver aboard John McCain's campaign plane in February 2000. Photo: Robert Schmidt/AFP via Getty Images)

John Weaver, a veteran Republican operative who co-founded the Lincoln Project, declared in a statement to Axios on Friday that he sent “inappropriate,” sexually charged messages to multiple men.

  • “To the men I made uncomfortable through my messages that I viewed as consensual mutual conversations at the time: I am truly sorry. They were inappropriate and it was because of my failings that this discomfort was brought on you,” Weaver said.
  • “The truth is that I'm gay,” he added. “And that I have a wife and two kids who I love. My inability to reconcile those two truths has led to this agonizing place.”