Weekly Editorials Page
6/14 to 6/20, 2001
Tonight's robotics articles describe very expensive robots that might, perhaps, be suitable for commercial applications. They're steps in a progression that won't reach Walmart for years, but they're inching their way forward. "Adavanced Imaging" magazine this month has an article about robotic vision. The article "Robotics Vision: Applications & Developments" by Len Yencharis, pg.22 says,
"According to new market estimates--not mine--mobile robot sales are expected to soar from $665 million to more than $17 billion in five years. Technologies are such that decades of labor in artificial intelligence, sensing, navigation, communications and response are beginning to bear fruit in the form of practical mobile robots. While fixed robotics tools have become increasingly flexible and productive, the self-directed mobile robot and its relatives---various freestanding robots now appearing on the world stage---are expected to transform business and industry across all sectors. The major segments include:
three articles deal with the resurgency of mysticism, magic, vampires,
fantasy, astrology, palmistry, and other retreats from reason. For untold
thousands of years, magic was the only science we had. Kingdoms rose and
fell on the unexpected appearances of comets, eclipses, and other unpredictable
manifestations of the divine. Empires cast their lots on the readings of
the entrails, the pronunciamentos of the oracles, the dreams of the prophets,
and other signs and portents. In all that time, if anyone succeeded in
devising a magic incantation that would cause a besom to sweep a room,
the secret died with her. Magic mirrors that would reveal to a seer what
was hapening in a distant land didn't survive to the 21st century. If they
had, we'd be using them instead of TV systems. (Of course, with TV, stories
about magic mirrors sound passé now that a reasonable approximation
is available to everyone.) As I've mentioned before, we are moving into
the age of mental telepathy, only we're calling it a "cellphone". When
it becomes embedded inside us, and is linkable to virtually every other
person on the planet, then people will no longe fantasize about telepathy.
As the second article, Magical thinking, points out,
"Science, the ultimate product of rational thought, is on a roll: One ancient scourge after another is being eliminated, hunger has been reduced to a political problem, life spans have doubled, all the knowledge of the world has been put at the fingertips of ordinary citizens, and the deepest mysteries of the cosmos are unfolding before our eyes. We are even beginning to get a handle on how to keep our planet healthy.
"Why then is the public turning away from science? Nay, not just turning away, but fleeing in the opposite direction. My bookcase overflows with wonderful, reductionist accounts of how the world works, written by brilliant scientists for nontechnical audiences--Gould, Dawkins, Sagan, Goodenough--but I look in vain for their names on bestseller lists. Instead, I find such pathetic drivel as Deepak Chopra's Ageless Body, Timeless Mind: The Quantum Alternative to Growing Old and Harvard psychiatrist John Mack's Abduction. There is James Van Praagh, Talking to Heaven, while Neale Walsch is having Conversations with God.
"How are we to account for such widespread nuttiness? Is it indelibly coded into our DNA? Perhaps. In her latest book, Sleeping with Extra-Terrestrials: The Rise of Irrationalism and Perils of Piety, Wendy Kaminer turns to psychologist James Alcock, who points out that all of us, scientists and professional skeptics included, engage at times in magical thinking. It's not surprising. Evolution is a slow business. All of recorded history covers a mere 4,000 years, the space age a mere four decades--far too little time to influence our genes. We are all saddled with genes selected for life in a Pleistocene wilderness. In a time before science, there was no gene for scientific thinking, and there still isn't. It must be learned."
There is an article in the "Neurology" file, Scientist says gene mutation is key to genius and despair, that postulates that an early mutation gave us genius and madness. It's perhaps because of this that we began burying our dead with "grave goods", and began to draw pictures on cave walls. This may also be the origin of our affinity for the mystic, and for peopling the dark with imaginary gods and spirits.
I have begun adding news sources to the science news articles.
The article, Antibiotic Prevents Lyme Disease if Given Quickly -Reuters, explains that just two doxycyclin antibiotic tablets given within 72 hours after a tick bite has an 87% chance of warding off Lyme disease.
Flashes have been observed on Mars since the 50's. They've been pooh-poohed in the past, but this time, a network of amateurs captured them on film. They're thought to be reflections of sunlight.
Monster-hunters set sights on Ireland - MSNBC... well, fayth and begorrah! What better place to hunt monsters than on the Auld Sod, home of Darby O'Gill and the Little People.
The article, Geothermal Power: If It's So Good, Why Isn't it More Popular?, mentions that the U. S. is already drawig about 2,880,000 kilowatts... enough power for 1,500,000 homes... from geothermal sources. We're also harnessing about 2,500,000 kw. of wind-derived power.
I've upped the number of news items each day from 25 to 40 because I'm building a huge backlog of news releases. When I first started this sinecure, there didn't seem to be enough news releases to carry us through the weekends. (I keep nattering on through weekends, when most other news services shut down.) I hope this doesn't overwhelm you. Hm-m-m, let's see. Maybe we can call this, "Uncle Bob's One-Stop News Shop." (Grin) How does that sound?
I'm retaining last night's discussions because tonight's comments will update and emend them.
After re-reading last night's news releases, including one from Intel, "Intel develops 20-nm transistor for 20-GHz processors by 2007", I realized that the 20 nanometer figure quoted in some of these press releases is the gate length of the transistors rather than their size. These transistors will switch at 1.33 trillion times per second (1.33 terahertz), and the entire billion-transistor chip will allegedly dissipate only about 1 watt(!?) at 20 GHz. This generation of chips, dubbed the P1266 chip family is expected to debut in 2007, and will feature 45-nanometer design features.
In 2009, Intel is planning the next (P1268) chip series, with 0.15 nanometer gate lengths, and 0.035 circuit features (Intel Researchers Build World's Fastest Silicon Transistors).
"Intel managers here also said the 20-nm transistor proves that silicon ICs will be viable well into the so-called "nanotechnology" era. They said the development debunks the belief that silicon will run out of gas in the next 10 years or so."
"There's been a lot of talk and concern about the end of Moore's Law," Gerald Marcyk, the director of components research for Intel's technology and manufacturing group, told Reuters this week. "So far, we haven't hit any fundamental limits with respect to our transistor technology." One of the things Andy Grove keeps asking me is, when do they stop working?" Marcyk said. "And I say I don't know yet. I keep shrinking them, and they keep working."
said they believe this development (of carbon nanotube transistors - see
27 story) could help clear the way for production of ICs once
silicon become no longer capable of handling device shrinks in the next
10 to 20 years."
Note the "next 10 to 20 years" for silicon, with, perhaps, some other concept to follow. See also
Intel unveils world's smallest transistors, and Intel claims world's smallest, fastest transistor.
Ten years ago, when I wrote the HATS/TABES 40-year computer technology forecast, the word was that computer technology was good until the year 2000, when circuit features would drop to 0.2 microns (200 nanometers). Then we'd hit a brick wall.
So here we are in 2001, and good to go until 2010, at which point we'll have to fall back and punt. In other words, it looks just as promising today as it did in 1991. I
t looks as though the state of the art in 2010 will be based upon 35-nanometer design features, down from 180-nanometer features in 2000. We will have gone through 130-nanometer, 100-nanometer, 65-anometer, 45-nanometer and 35-nanometer generations to get there. I would have looked for 25-nanometer and 18-nanometer features by 2010, but 35-nanometers will do nicely, thank you.
At that rate, we might look for 7 to 8 nanometers by 2020, and that might still be realizable in silicon. At 7 nanometers, features would be 20 to 30 atoms across. But if not, there may be other options by then.
To anyone looking ahead from 1980 (like me), it would have been utterly mind-boggling that 35-nanometer-feature chips could be built at all. A typical living cell is 10,000 to 20,000 nanometers in length.
But we're good at least through 2010. And things look as bright as they did in 1991
Tonight's most interesting
news release for me is the Discovery
that Magnetic Fields Flatten Space-Time.
The idea that someone can unite electromagnetism and general relativity
is startling news to me. It brings back questions about Dr. Ning Li's experiments
with mmagnetogravitic interactions (NASA
Funds Controversial Gravity Shield). The paper is available from
Review of Letters for $15.