Al, Meet HAL

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WASHINGTON: When you’re Al Gore, all tech news is good news -– which can lead to some pretty unorthodox press conferences. Take Wednesday, for example, when the veep announces the completion of the world’s fastest supercomputer, Pacific Blue, built by IBM for the Department of Energy. Big Blue’s new baby runs around 15,000 times faster than your humble desktop model and has 80,000 times more RAM. Talk about your multitasking –- this puppy performs 3.9 trillion operations a second. Complex calculations that would take months, even on the current crop of supercomputers, will bother Pacific Blue for no more than a few days.

Some politicians might shy away from such a HAL-like machine in the face of a technophobic electorate; not our Al. He’s happy to tell us about the morally dubious purpose for which Pacific Blue was built -– that is, to simulate nuclear explosions and keep America’s stockpile of nukes in tip-top working order. No matter that struggling third-world superpowers like India want such virtual atom blasts included in the international test-ban treaty. The veep is more interested in the computer’s other potential uses -– like predicting climate change. So how about a Gore-Pacific Blue ticket in 2000?