Friday Science

I’ve been a computer user for ten years now. Since I started in my late thirties, I was way behind the curve when it came to knowing how to use a computer and utilize the various programs involved. To say the least, I’m quite an accomplished Microsoft Office user now (I found out later that’s not a claim to fame). Anyway, over the years I have taken various computer courses, either in programming (C++ and Visual Basic, I suck) , HTML (not very good at either) and more updated Microsoft stuff (no Vista yet). I’ve even taken a hardware course, so I know some basic stuff about processors, buses, chips, ROM, RAM, bios, clockspeed, etc.

But when it came to chip and processor manufacturing, I knew diddly squat. I knew most chips were ceramic, with copper, silver, nichol and even gold inlaid into them. And the more pathways squeezed onto the chip, the faster the processor speed. But the trouble with that is that the heat generated is higher as the speed increases. Big problem. It also makes it looks like there’s a limit to Moore’s Law.

Enter Optical Processing. Optical transistors have been in the works for a while now and even though the processing speed is greater (speed of light) the energy required to use them is quite high. The reason is that these transistors has to utilize a whole beam of light to activate them from one state to another. But now researchers have found a way for the transistors to activate using a single photon of light:

Mikhail Lukin and colleagues at Harvard University have come up with a technique that uses a single photon to switch the state of a light beam. This is the first workable suggestion for building an optical computer, they say.

An electrical transistor’s speed is limited by the speed at which an electric current flows. In theory, because photons travel much faster than an electric current, substituting photons for electrons would speed things up. In reality, however, finding the optical equivalent of a transistor has proved difficult.

…Lukin suggests using a semiconducting nanowire that resembles a miniature optical fibre, and sending both beams down it. Because the nanowire confines the rippling plasmon to a smaller space than the gold film, it should be more sensitive to changes in the intensity of the control beam. Lukin says that this increased sensitivity is enough to allow just a single photon to switch the state of the signal beam.

Nanotech is going to play a huge part in the next stage of computer evolution, just by reducing the size of the carrier fiber, light can be taken down to the quantum level photon that can actuate the transistors. This reduces the energy requirement and waste heat also, two for one!

I wish I was smart enough to get a job doing this stuff!

(Speed of Light Computing Comes a Step Closer)

10 responses

  1. The next step is quantum computing.

    Is Artificial Intelligence too far behind?

  2. HTML makes my eyes cross!

    Good. Now I know who to come to with problems the next time I have trouble with my Dell. Since my warranty is officially expired, I am on my own should problems arise.

  3. You must’ve missed the “I suck” and “not very good at” parts! LOL!

    That hardware course I took about five years ago, don’t ask too many hard questions!

    But I do work around people who are pretty knowledgeable about computer stuff. Next to them, I’m a novice! 🙂

  4. I know how to turn my computer on and off. That’s about it as everything else is very iffy.

  5. Computers are so simple today that they fool us into believing they will always do what we expect of them. WRONG! 🙂

  6. I’m wondering if this technology advancement at Harvard (and probably other universities) is the “change” we will see in the internet and how we use it, rather than the change being a scheme to shut down the internet and thus remove its dangers to the established elites.
    Too hopeful?

  7. Me too, on the turn on/off level of expertise….but just with the pidling stuff I do as a blogger I have learned so much! And each little new thing I can do is so rewarding! The first time i was able to create a badge and actually get it to show on my blog, OH BABY!

  8. As far as number crunching goes I’m BC “before computors”. Started out on a Monroe mechanical desk calculator, a flint stone arrangement that tallied the number you entered on every rotation. With a set of eight place trig tables, we could calculate x , y, and z co-ordinates. I even had a miniature version called a Curta, about the size of a soup can, for calculating in the field. Well…I paid $140 for it and it became obselete in 1972, a couple of years later, when the HP 35 scientific hand calculator came out. This thing didn’t require trig tables and could carry co-ordinates. You could even inverse co-ordinates and come up with a distance and bearing. Needless to mention it was over for the slide rule. About this time I went to work for McKay & Somps civil engineers, in Calif. and wasn’t there long when they called all of us field grunts into the office to show off their new Wang computor connection. A large central computor that was used before the personal computor. They ran off a few rapid survey closures, then proceeded to play Pong, which we all got a turn at. Needless to mention there was a lot of ooohs and ahs.

    Anyway I didn’t use a computor much untill the early 80’s when I was doing office calcs. It was a HP 9815 cassette tape drive that held 100 points of ROM information. No mouse or screen, just a number cruncher. I quit the survey biz and started an antique store, so didn’t use a computor again untill 1998, when I bought a brand new compaq and it took a long time before I could cruise effortlessly on the innertubes. If it hadn’t been for my son, who is a nerd, and my nephew who is a bigger nerd, I would have never been able to keep it running. My nephew was a Mac tech who had a standard answer for me when I got in trouble…(Get A Mac!)

    Anyways this little town im in installed fiberoptic cable and we get a 5 megabyte connection for $35 per mo. so I had to get a new computor, so I could be Microsoft legal. Firewalls, automatic updates, etc. It’s really nice to stay on line without crashing like I was doing on my old Dell.

    This is pretty fast for me…I don’t know if I’m ready for the speed of light or not, but will probably become addicted to it when it comes along and wonder how I ever did without it…G:

  9. The first computer I ever used was NCIC…. 🙂

  10. I didn’t know squat about computers most of my adult life. When I was in high school, we had a huge programmable calculator in our math lab. I was a senior then. I don’t remember the make or model. When I was in the Marines as a jet engine/helicopter mechanic, we used slide rules to do any math that may have been needed. We used depth gauges and micrometers most of the time anyway. When I got out and came home and remarried to my present wife and started work for the company I work for now, I didn’t use a computer. It wasn’t until I went back to college in 1997 that I started to use computers, and that was out of necessity. The professors then were starting to insist that papers be printed from MS Word 95 through ink-jet printers, not type writers anymore. So I was “forced” to evolve. Needless to say it’s become an indespensible tool. In order to catch up on the skills needed to operate the damn things, I took a lot of computer classes. They are still rudimentary at best since if you don’t work in the field and have to keep up on all of the technology, you’re always going to be behind the eight-ball. Unless you’re a true techno-geek, you’ll never keep up.

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