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Last Updated: Friday, 21 July 2006, 14:30 GMT 15:30 UK
Super computer tackles bird flu
Computer cabling
The super computer has been given a 20% performance boost
A super computer, considered one of the most powerful in Europe, has been given a boost in its brain power for the UK's fight against bird flu.

Blue C, based at Swansea University, has been made 20% more powerful so it can work out more quickly the best way to tackle a possible disease outbreak.

The flu's H5N1 strain has killed 133 people worldwide and the UK had one confirmed case in a swan in April.

Blue C aims to predict where a UK outbreak would start.

By modelling bird flight patterns, experts hope the machine will work out how best to confine the disease, through culls and quarantines, should more birds carrying the disease migrate to the UK in future.

A spokeswoman for Swansea University said: "The data government scientists are looking for to underline their decision is there to be found, that's where Blue C is making the difference.

Blodd samples taken from a chicken in Singapore
The computer is running multiple models on bird flu

"Because of its processing power, it allows us to run multiple models throughout the system and means we're waiting minutes or hours for the results."

The project was funded by Defra, the rural affairs ministry, she added.

IBM-made Blue C, the size of a tennis court, is derived from Deep Blue, the first computer to beat a reigning world chess champion.

Energy bill

According to the university, the technology upgrade means Blue C now has a processing power of more than two trillion calculations per second.

Blue C is part of the university's 50m life sciences research centre, the research arm of the campus' School of Medicine.

A spokesperson for Swansea University said the computer's upgrade has also cut the amount of power Blue C needs, making it a "greener" machine and cutting its energy bill by 50,000 year.

Professor Julian Hopkin, head of the school of medicine, said: "The development of new medical breakthroughs demands vast computing power and Blue C has proved to be enormously important to our work here."


SEE ALSO
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26 Jul 05 |  South West Wales

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