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Uploaded:2012-02-01
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Ever notice how adding "super" in front of something makes it way more awesome? Hank gives us the rundown on the Yellowstone SUPERcomputer.

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Hank Green: This is something I've noticed, things just sound a lot cooler if you put the word “super” in front of it. [SciShow intro] Like, you hear the word “hero” and you’re like, okay, awesome, that guy probably got an award for picking up litter at his middle school. But superhero, and that guy could probably laser your face off with his eyeballs! Try it yourself. Sonic -- eh. Supersonic--yeah! Mario Brothers sounds like a body shop in Jersey, but Super Mario Brothers: this is the stuff of legends. And it works with computing, too. Just computing sounds like a you're buying toiletries on Amazon, but super-computing and you're helping to save the Earth. Consider for a moment, Yellowstone: a shiny roomful of number-crunching computers that, when it goes online this summer, will probably be the most powerful computer ever dedicated to the study of Earth sciences. Scientists named it Yellowstone because it’s housed in Wyoming, where the National Center for Atmospheric Research, or NCAR (which is different from NASCAR), is building a new super-computing facility to, quote, “accelerate research into climate change.” And accelerate is the correct word because the Yellowstone will have 30 times the computing power of the current already super computer that NCAR is currently using. This thing is expected to do 1.6 quadrillion [1,600,000,000,000,000] operations per second. That's nuts! I don't even know how many things that is. I can't... per second? The very first supercomputer was created by a guy named Seymour Cray back in 60's, and it did a whopping 1 million operations per second. To put that into perspective, the computer that you are using right now probably does about 10-20 billion. So, Cray's computer was great for it's time. Not so impressive anymore. But the point of all this computing power is to make the Yellowstone the biggest climate know-it-all of all time. I recently got to talk with Dr. Andrew Gettelman, a scientist who works at NCAR and will be working with the Yellowstone supercomputer. And he told me that its giant brain may make it possible to predict high resolution weather not just a few days from now, but decades from now. Dr. Andrew Bettelman: We’ve traditionally run, for example, high resolution weather models for 3 or 4 days, and those models can do things like they can simulate hurricanes. If we can run those for longer, on a -- and occupy more of a computer, like Yellowstone, we can actually try to represent what will happen with hurricanes, and the statistics of hurricanes in the future. So we can run the model for 50 years and say, "Well, what did the hurricanes look like? What do we think they're gonna look like in the future?" Hank Green: And Yellowstone could extend climate research even farther, like potentially predicting the next ice age, or some other potential horrible catastrophe, like the melting of Greenland’s ice sheet, the second largest body of ice in the world. Yeah, we should, we should probably know that. But in addition to crunching numbers about how we’re totally FUBARing our environment, Yellowstone is also going to help us figure out potential solutions. Because scientists at the University of Wyoming will be using a tiny slice of Yellowstone to study Wyoming’s wind patterns, they'll be able to figure out the best places to put Wyoming's wind turbines. And, so that it's contributing a little less to the problems it's trying to predict, Yellowstone will be using ten percent wind power. And that’s just super! We’ll keep you up to date on Yellowstone’s research. You can follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Let us know if you have any ideas for stuff you'd like us to cover, or any questions to do with any of the topics that we've discussed. And of course, if you would like more stuff like this in your subscription box, go ahead and subscribe at YouTube.com/SciShow.