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We Now Know the Sixty-Trillionth Binary Digit of Pi-Squared

An Australian team has announced that they have calculated Pi-squared to the sixty-trillionth binary digit, at a rate of one-quadrillion calculations per second. The University of Newcastle team working with IBM and their BlueGene/P supercomputer say that this would have taken a single, conventional computer more than 1,500 years to calculate. The thousands of BlueGene/P’s independent processors completed the work in just a few months.

In their calculations, the Australian team used methodology developed by David Bailey with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. He says that part of the motivation behind such a lengthy calculation is to test the computers. From Physorg:

“If two separate computations of digits of Pi, say using different algorithms, are in agreement except perhaps for a few trailing digits at the end, then almost certainly both computers performed trillions of operations flawlessly,” [Bailey] says.

Bailey himself proved this in 1986, when a Pi calculation on NASA’s Cray supercomputers uncovered a flaw of which the manufacturer was unaware. But more than anything, this is a triumph of human determination and as Bailey says, “once again we see the utter futility in placing limits on human ingenuity and technology.”

(Physorg via Engadget, image via Paul Smith)

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