This is another in our series of stories identifying new technologies and actions that can slow climate change, reduce its impacts or help communities cope with a rapidly changing world.

Computing equipment stacked all the way to the ceiling. Thousands of little fans whirring. Colored lights flashing. Sweltering hot aisles alongside cooler lanes. Welcome to a modern data center.

Every ChatGPT conversation, every Google search, every TikTok video makes its way to you through a place like this.

“You have to go in with a jacket and shorts,” says Vijay Gadepally with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, or MIT. As a computer scientist at MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory in Lexington, Mass., he helps run a data center that’s located a couple of hours away by car in Holyoke. It focuses on supercomputing. This technology uses many powerful computers to perform complex calculations.

Entering the data center, you walk past a power room where transformers distribute electricity to the supercomputers. You hear “a humming,” Gadepally says. It’s the sound of the data center chowing down on energy.


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