See how computing power has increased just about a quadrillion-fold over six decades
Posted 11.02.2011 at 4:29 pm 4 Comments
Charles Xavier Thomas de Colmar invented the first commercially successful mechanical calculator in 1820. It was 100 years before mechanical calculators gave way, in the 1930s, to electromechanical calculators, which then quickly gave way to the first general-purpose electronic computer, ENIAC, in 1946. By 1965, Gordon Moore was predicting that engineers would be able to double the number of components on a microchip every two years (and by 1968, he co-founded Intel to help them do so).
“DNA is the future of computing,” Jian-Jun Shu tells PhysOrg. And why not? Silicon is slow by comparison, computes in a binary system, creates waste heat, and is not particularly easy on the environment. DNA-based computing can perform better than silicon in several respects, Shu says, and he and a few of his students at Nanyang Technical University in Singapore have set out to prove it.
“Better, stronger, faster,” seems to be the mantra over at DARPA, so why wouldn’t the Pentagon’s innovative R&D wing demand the baddest, fastest computers in the world? Under the umbrella of its Ubiquitous High Performance Computing (UHPC) program, DARPA is looking to develop computers that make the prefix “peta” seem lame by comparison: a platform that can carry out one quintillion (1,000,000,000,000,000,000) calculations per second. The exaflop era is upon us.
Google has quietly put millions of dollars' worth of resources into a biotech startup that creates targeted antibody drugs that single out diseased targets among healthy cells. The Internet search giant ultimately hopes that computer models alone could identify the best antibody for particular targets for testing in human clinical trials.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.