It's a hard life, being a supercomputer: in June 2012, just a paltry few months ago, IBM's Sequoia supercomputer was the awesome new kid on the block, calculating many millions of weird and wonderful things a second. Now, though, poor old IBM's been dethroned by the bigger and better - and more awesomely named - Titan.
Ok, so Titan isn't an entirely brand spanking new beastie; in fact, it's just an upgrade of an older Oak Ridge National Laboratory supercomputer called Jaguar. In much the same way that you'd upgrade your slightly ageing desktop by whacking a new graphics card in, the good folk at Cray designed a Nvidia GPU-based upgrade. (Ok, so I'm joking, it's probably harder than upgrading a desktop - you probably have to take more than 2 screws out, for a start.)
GPUs were selected for their superior parallel processing power, and the CPUs that formed the core of the old Jaguar supercomputer (plus some new CPUs) are now just used to allocate tasks to the GPUs, rather than handling any of the heavy lifting themselves, which all sounds pretty clever to me.
In total, the new-and-upgraded system has 560,640 cores, which puts my fancy quad-core smartphone to shame just slightly. Still, I'm not actually planning on modelling any nuclear reactions just yet, so maybe I'll be ok. [Techradar]