June 25, 2013, 2:24 PM — In October 2010, China built what was then the world's fastest supercomputer. Three months later, President Barack Obama warned in his State of the Union address that America was facing a "Sputnik moment."
Pointing to rapid technological advances in other countries, China in particular, Obama called for more federal investment in research into biomedical engineering, clean energy and information technology.
That call went unheeded, and two years later that Sputnik moment still looms. Federal spending on R&D is at its lowest level in 40 years, thanks to the ongoing budget dispute between Congress and the White House that led to sequestration, says the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The cuts threaten to hurt a slew of projects, including U.S. development of an exascale computer that would be roughly 1,000 times more powerful than today's systems.
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