You'd Never Guess the Technological Beast Hidden Inside This 19th Century Church


All photos by courtesy of Barcelona Supercomputing Center

Build in the 19th century, Chapel Torre Giona is a stunning neo-romantic building that used to serve the Roman Catholic Church as the place of worship of the Collegi de Monges de l'Ascenció school of monks, but no longer.

Now, though the power within the former church is not ecclesiastical, it is no less fascinating: Chapel Torre Giona now houses one of the world's fastest supercomputers.

Meet MareNostrum (Latin for "Our Sea"), one of seven supercomputers in the Spanish Supercomputing Network and arguably the most architecturally beautiful. Set inside the chapel, the raw power of modern technology stand side by side with ancient collonades, Romanesque arches and ornately carved wooden doors.

MareNostrum features 2,560 JS21 blade computing nodes, capable of performing calculations at 62.63 teraflops (that's 62.63 trillion floating-point operations per second) with a peak performance of 94.21 teraflops*. (Just think about it: to match what a single teraflops computer can do in a single second, you'd have to perform one calculation per second for 31,688.77 years.) It is used to perform complex calculations for research in the fields of human genome, protein research, weather forecasting, and pharmaceutical drug designs.

*That sounds super fast, but MareNostrum is only 456th in the Top 500 most powerful supercomputers in the world. The fastest is Tianhe-2, which is a 33.86 petaflop supercomputer at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, China. It's about 540 times faster than the MareNostrum.

More about the MareNostrum and the Barcelona Supercomputing Center at its official website and Atlas Obscura.

All photos by courtesy of Barcelona Supercomputing Center.

View more fun pics over at our NeatoPicto Blog

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Thank you. I recently read about this in an article about the ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor); a fusion energy research project. The project has booked time on the Mare Nostrum, and I was fascinated by the name and the location of this computer. The photo is a beautiful and haunting juxtaposition of old and new.
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