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SpiNNaker: 4 Things you should know about world’s largest supercomputer

SpiNNaker supercomputer facts and things you should know
November 12, 2018

Spiking Neural Network Architecture (SpiNNaker), the world’s largest human brain-like supercomputer, was switched on for the first time in November of 2018.

It took over 20 years in conception and 12 years in construction to finally come to ‘life’. The primary objective of the machine is to aid neuroscientists better understand how the human brain works.

Here is everything about the SpiNNaker supercomputer that you ought to know:

1) The supercomputer, powered with over 1 million cores, can complete around 200 million actions per second, courtesy of each of its chips that houses over 100 million transistors.

2) The SpiNNaker was designed and built at the University of Manchester, UK, at a cost of around £15 million.

3) To understand the working of the computer one must first be acquainted with the meaning of the term ‘biological neurons’.

Biological neurons are basic brain cells present in the nervous system which communicate primarily by emitting ‘spikes’ of sheer electro-chemical energy.

Thus, in similar fashion, SpiNNaker supercomputer uses large scale computer systems containing electronic circuits to mimic these spikes. Furthermore, it kind of replicates the massively parallel communication architecture of the brain, sending billions of small amounts of data simultaneously to thousand different destinations.

4) It will help neuroscientists develop better understanding on how the brain works, which means that the machine has a huge potential for making neurological breakthroughs, which in turn will help millions of patients suffering from brain-related conditions across the globe.

For instance, the machine has been successful in simulating the Basal Ganglia – a region of the brain affected in Parkinson’s disease.

The human brain is one of the most complex creations of nature, and it might take centuries for the human race to develop technologies that can explain what exactly goes on (and how to repair a fault) within the network of 100 billion highly-interconnected neurons!


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