NERSCPowering Scientific Discovery Since 1974

Did You Know?

In 1997, NERSC named its new Cray T3E-900 supercomputer MCurie in honor of Marie Curie, a physicist who was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize.

Back in 1976, the CDC 38500 mass storage device held 54 million bits of data. Compare that to an iPod Touch, which can hold 700 megabytes – about 6 billion bits!

The CDC 38500 mass storage device.

Over the last five decades, supercomputer processing speeds have increased from 3 megaflops to 10 petaflops. Today the world’s fastest supercomputer is 3.3 billion times faster than the first supercomputers.

A Cray-1 supercomputer at the National Magnetic Fusion Energy Computer Center (now known as NERSC) was featured in Disney’s 1982 movie “Tron.”

Over the years NERSC has chosen to install low serial number versions of many of its supercomputers, including a Cray-1 with serial number 6 (1978), the first Cray-2, serial number 1 (1985), and Hopper, one of the first Cray XE6 machines (2009).

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina (Aug. 23-30, 2005), DOE's Office of Science allocated 400,000 supercomputing hours at NERSC to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in New Orleans to run simulations of hurricane protection projects.

In 1979, NERSC boasted 1,000 users. Today NERSC supports the largest number of users of any computing facility within the Department of Energy: 5,000, with a net growth of 350 users per year.

George Smoot, professor of physics at UC Berkeley & an astrophysicist at Berkeley Lab, won the 2006 Nobel Prize for physics for his cosmic microwave background radiation data analysis. He used NERSC supercomputers to confirm predictions of the Big Bang theory.

ESnet – the high-bandwidth backbone that links NERSC and other supercomputing facilities with scientists at national laboratories, universities and research institutions around the world – celebrated its 25thanniversary in 2011.

The MFECC Buffer, the center's monthly newsletter.

Saul Perlmutter -- a professor of physics at UC Berkeley and a faculty senior scientist at Berkeley Lab — was awarded the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics for his 1998 discovery that the universe is expanding at an accelerating rate. He confirmed his observations by running thousands of simulations at NERSC, and his research team is believed to have been the first to use supercomputers to analyze and validate observational data in cosmology.

NERSC has had four names since its founding in 1974, reflecting the evolution of the center’s focus to more broad-based science applications: Controlled Thermonuclear Research Computer Center (1974-1976), National Magnetic Fusion Energy Computer Center (1976-1990), National Energy Research Supercomputing Center (1990-1996), and National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (1996 to present).