(Roughly) Daily

Large Numbers…

How big is a Quadrillion?

The new “Roadrunner” supercomputer built by IBM for the US Department of Energy’s Los Alamos National Laboratory has achieved a peak performance of 1.026 Peta Flop per second (“Flop” = “floating point operations,” or computations) — becoming the first computer ever to cross this threshold of speed.  1 Peta Flop/sec (or 1,000 Trillion Flops) is One Quadrillion Flops/sec.

All of the data found on all the web sites and stored on all of the computers around the world is estimated to total more than One Exabyte of memory: i.e., 1,000 Quadrillion bytes of data.

And now another gauge, this one from the world of finance:

According to sources including the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) in Basel, Switzerland — the central bankers’ bank — the amount of outstanding derivatives worldwide as of December 2007 crossed US$ 1.144 Quadrillion, i.e., US$ 1,144 Trillion.  Under half of the action ($548 Trillion) was listed; the balance was Over-the-Counter, and broke down thusly:
– Interest Rate Derivatives at about USD 393+ trillion;
– Credit Default Swaps at about USD 58+ trillion;
– Foreign Exchange Derivatives at about USD 56+ trillion;
– Commodity Derivatives at about USD 9 trillion;
– Equity Linked Derivatives at about USD 8.5 trillion; and
– Unallocated Derivatives at about USD 71+ trillion.

These are, of course, only the derivatives sufficiently visible to be counted by the BIS… and they should be understood in the context of a GDP for the entire world that is (per the CIA Factbook, 2008) $78,360,000,000,000… which ought to be more consoling– these mysterious “assets” are under 2% of GDP– than it is…

As D.K. Mattal observes, it’s possible that many of these counter-party arrangements can cancel each other out.  (Many others agree;  see, e.g., Sylvain Raynes’s planChristopher Whalen’s proposal, or the summary of both in Gretchen Morgenstern’s New York Times piece.)  We need profoundly to hope so.

As we might marvel at the sheer, mysterious scale of it all, we might wonder what light through yonder window breaks, as it was (probably) on this date in 1595 that Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet was first performed by the company of which he was a part, The Lord Chamberlain’s Men.

Shakespeare’s colleague Richard Burbage, probably the first actor to play Romeo

Written by (Roughly) Daily

January 29, 2009 at 1:01 am

Posted in Uncategorized

%d bloggers like this: