If a movie 'flops at the box office', it is not very popular. If Mr. Lockyer does a 'belly flop into the pool at Aurora Court Recreation Center', he has probably splashed a lot of people. If a political candidate 'flip-flops on an issue', she is not being clear on what she will do if she is elected.
Since I'm a computer geek, when I hear the word 'flop', I think about computers.
In computing, FLOPS (or flops or flop/s) is an acronym that means FLoating point Operations Per Second. The more flop/s a computer can do, the better it is at solving super-duper big math or science problems. A basic calculator, for example, can do somewhere around 10 flop/s. This means that it can do ten mathmatical calculations in one second. A Playstation3 (which, of course, is a computer) can do many, MANY flop/s. For this reason, it is not unknown for scientists to buy a few hundred PS3 systems, hook them together, and have them solve huge math calculations.
One computer recently smashed the flop/s record by operating at more than 1 petaflop/s (if you were to read that out loud, you'd say 'more than one petaflop per second'). So, how much is a petaflop?
Peta is the same as a quadrillion. No, that's not a made up number. It is the same as a million billion, and it looks like this:
1 000 000 000 000 000.
That's right. There is a computer out there that can do a petaflop in a second. This computer is called the IBM Roadrunner. Read about it here. The words are big, but you don't need to understand every word to understand the article. Stick with it, sound out the big words, and use clues from the text to figure out what they mean. If you get really curious, you can always Google>"define:word" (remember not to put a space between the colon and the word you want defined).
Want to have some fun learning about large numbers? Surf on over to Math Cats or go to Google, type, "really big numbers", and check out some of the results. If you're really good at searching, why don't you try to find out how many flop/s your favorite gaming console can do? Which is faster: a Wii, a PS3, or a 360?