You can always tell what’s most important in society by what the the powerful computers are being used for. In the 80’s, the big computers were used for the Cold War space program. In the 90’s and first half of 2000s, they were used for rendering computer graphics in movies. And now, in 2010, we’ve got a 1.8 petaflop computer that’s sifting through internet traffic to find purveyors of child pornography.

The problem is that there’s a scary amount of child pornography on the internet – and catching the people involved in it is daunting. Grier Weeks, executive director of the National Association to Protect Children, talked to the computer scientists there, and together are coming up with a way to digitize the taskforce – instead of having cops riding a desk for hours trying to find the source of the offending material, Weeks would rather let a computer do it.

Robert Patton, one of the dudes running this beast computer, says his aim is “to say ‘Hey, of all of the data you’re looking at right now, here are a handful of IP addresses that you should investigate further’.” With 1.8 petaflops doing the number-crunching, law enforcement should be able to narrow down the real targets easily.

I’m resisting the urge to make a “1.8 pedoflops” joke.

Sauce: New Scientist

We want to be able to say ‘Hey, of all of the data you’re looking at right now, here are a handful of IP addresses that you should investigate further.”