The Creative Solution:
So they bought almost 2,000 Sony PlayStation 3s and hooked them together to see what would happen.
OK, we're being a bit unfair there. Video game consoles have some serious horsepower for the few hundred dollars they cost, so the solution made sense. The Department of Defense's 1,716 PlayStation 3s were formed into the massive computational megamachine known as the "Condor Cluster." This is what it looks like:
Imagine the photorealistic Duke Nukem crotch bulge that thing could generate.
For one-tenth of the cost of a traditional supercomputer, the Condor Cluster is also using one-tenth of a traditional supercomputer's power. But instead of using top secret proprietary technology, the Cluster is open source. It's even been opened up to universities, who are using it to do everything from create artificial neural networks to build models that will prove Einstein's theory of relativity.
They could have saved $4.2 million by shopping on Black Friday.