What is a floating point operation?

Discussion in 'General Mac Discussion' started by obelix, Apr 18, 2005.

  1. obelix macrumors member

    Oct 20, 2004
    "High performance computing is often measured in terms of floating point operations per second, and is used in an environment where every second counts." - Some HPC manual I'm reading

    I am wondering what exactly is meant by floating point operations? Is this some large number that the computer is just crunching all the time in a calculation?
  2. Mitthrawnuruodo Moderator emeritus


    Mar 10, 2004
    Bergen, Norway
    from Wikipedia - a source of more and more knowledge... ;)
  3. mkrishnan Moderator emeritus


    Jan 9, 2004
    Grand Rapids, MI, USA
    As a more simplified answer, floating point operations are when you take two numbers that might not be integers (i.e. 5.4 or -1.1) and add / subtract / multiply / divide them.

    The reason it comes up in assessing the performance of computing is that there are some kinds of computing problems, like doing permutations and combinations, that mostly involve integer math, and some that involve mostly floating math (like calculating distances and angles and orientations in a 3D environment). So over time, computers came to do integer and floating point math in separate parts. But especially for high-performance scientific computing, it's the floating part that is the really computer intensive part. So the number of floating point operations per second (flop) became the benchmark of speed.

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