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Are Supercomputers Worth Their Super Price Tags?

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Upper House Diet member Murata Renho

Hard to answer: Upper House member of the Diet of Japan Murata Renho asked during the 2009 budget-review sessions, "What's wrong with being the world's No. 2?"

Credit: Kyodo

"Why do we have to aim for the world's No. 1 — what's wrong with being the world's No. 2?"

Ever since that short question about Japan's vaunted K supercomputer was posed live on national television in November 2009, Japan's policymakers have been haunted by their need to justify the 112 billion yen (U.S. $1.44 billion) of taxpayers' money the project has soaked up since 2006.

The question — by sharp-tongued Diet member Murata Renho — with its clearly implied criticism of those chasing the fleeting glory of holding the world's top spot, has had a deep impact on the direction of Japan's supercomputer policy since. In fact, while bureaucrats struggled to come up with a convincing justification for the massive scale of expenditure they had overseen, the government panel adjudicating on spending judged the K computer project unnecessary and called for its budget for the following fiscal year 2010 to be frozen. That sent shock waves through the nation's scientific community.

From The Japan Times
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