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How Supercomputing Is Cracking The Mysteries Of Human Origins

•, By Andrew Rosenblum

A Texas supercomputer capable of 9.6 quadrillion operations per second has solved a thorny problem in genetics, by looking at the bones of a young boy who died 24,000 years ago in Mal'ta in south-central Siberia.

Existing genetic models have suggested that modern Europeans share DNA with 3 different groups: blue-eyed, swarthy hunter-gatherers who arrived in Europe some 40,000 years ago; a second group of light-skinned, brown-eyed farmers from the Near East who migrated about 7,000 years ago; and a third mystery group who arrived more recently to share their genes. But no one knew who this "ghost population" was.

By plugging the ancient boy's genomic data into the 9.6 petaflop "Stampede" supercomputer at the University of Texas at Austin, senior co-author David Reich of Harvard and his team were able to confirm a theory that the boy's group of "ancient North Eurasians" were indeed the missing population.

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