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Moore's Law: full speed ahead - Synchronicity swirls and other foolishness

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August 31st, 2007

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04:35 pm - Moore's Law: full speed ahead
According to the NYT
Researchers at I.B.M. laboratories say they have made progress toward storing information and computing at the level of individual atoms.

The scientists documented their work in two papers appearing on Friday in the journal Science. Both papers are focused on new understanding of the behavior of magnetism at the tiny scale of nanotechnology, where scientists hope to develop electronics made from components that are far smaller than today’s transistors and wires.

In one paper the researchers describe a technique for reading and writing digital ones and zeroes onto a handful of atoms, or even individual atoms. The second paper describes the ability to use a single molecule as a switch, replicating the behavior of today’s transistors...

A second group of I.B.M. scientists in Zurich were able to place two hydrogen atoms in an ultrathin insulating film and switch them back and forth between two states, creating the equivalent of the ones and zeroes used in standard chips. They were also able to use the same switching process to inject an electric charge into one molecule and link the effect to a neighboring molecule. That suggests it might be possible to extend the effect into a fabric of trillions of atom-size switches in the future.
In short, while it's likely not to be remotely practical for at least a decade, there seems no limit on memory or processing size all the way down to individual atoms. So, if anything is going to stop "the Acceleration", it's certainly not going to be hardware.
Current Mood: pleasedpleased

(7 comments | Leave a comment)


Date:September 1st, 2007 01:16 am (UTC)
But what happens after we hit the top level achievable using individual atoms?
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Date:September 1st, 2007 02:11 am (UTC)
Given that quantum compters look possible (a fact that never ceases to amazing me, when I first heard of them, I assumed they were utterly impossible in practice) I'm guessing we'll start using them instead. Also, computing power can continue to increase even after practical limits (whatever they might be) have been reached by massive parallel processing.
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Date:September 1st, 2007 03:42 am (UTC)
I believe we'll come up with something, but my understand thus far is that quantum computing is more hype than reality. Not that it isn't possible, but that even if we achieve it, we have no realistic expectations of what that would mean. There's a good blog out there from a scientist in the field, but unfortunately, the link is bookmarked on a computer that no longer boots. I'll have to poke a friend of mine to dig it up.
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Date:September 1st, 2007 02:14 pm (UTC)
For certain problems, possible. There's one major gotcha about parallel computing, and that is that not all problems decompose readily into sub-problems that can be distributed across multiple CPUs. Some forms of multiplication and matrix math can be because they can be broken down into other problems that, when the results are added together, are the same as working the problem out the long way, but by and large this isn't the case.
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Date:September 1st, 2007 01:36 am (UTC)
We are limited by imagination, by desire and by fear of certain potentials.
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Date:September 1st, 2007 05:20 pm (UTC)
I'd note that flipping a couple of bits in the lab is a long way from useful massive processing. It's not just a matter of doing a lot more of it, there's also stability, not having bits flip back on their own.

Progress, yes, but no guarantee of useful progress when we need it.
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Date:September 1st, 2007 07:10 pm (UTC)
Most certainly. This merely proves the idea has possibilities, but I don't expect to see anything remotely practical for 15-20 years. However, it does suggest (but does not guarantee) that there aren't any limits down to that size.

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