Mathematicians at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) made a significant contribution to scientific computing by spearheading an effort to make the popular JavaT programming language more useful for engineers and scientists. Java is used widely on the World Wide Web and in embedded systems. A change in Java proposed by a NIST-led work group eliminated a bottleneck that prevented those who used popular microprocessors, such as the Intel PentiumR, from running calculations at full speed.
The affected calculations involve floating point arithmetic--the kind of arithmetic favored by engineers and scientists who do massive number crunching in order to get highly accurate results. In floating point arithmetic, numbers are stored using scientific notation, which allows people to use a tremendous range of values in their calculations. The storage method involved is different from that used in integer arithmetic, which involves storing all the digits in a number. The changes in the latest version of Java allow floating point arithmetic calculations to run as much as 10 times faster on certain microprocessors. Sun Microsystems Inc. developed Java and released the new version earlier this year.