Thursday, July 27, 2006

Making something ELSE feel insignificant

My last post with incredibly unbelievable numbers was focused on fantastically, astronomically huge concepts. Now, I'll do the thing that....ummm....the other thing that's not that.

I don't know how many of you care about computing parts, but remember that it wasn't that long ago when computers filled buildings, used vacuum tubes, and ran on paper punch cards. Today, INTEL released its latest generation of microprocessors for personal computers. They aren't kidding about the "micro". The new chips contain spectacularly small parts. Parts of circuits are now mass-manufactured at 65 nanometers. One hundred transistors could fit on a red blood cell. The chip contains 291 million transistors.

I can't even begin to comprehend the technology involved in creating something that small, repeatedly, on the millions of processor chips that INTEL will eventually make. How small does your solder gun and hammer have to be to create stuff that small? Obviously, there's no way a human could accomplish it. The slightest hand jolt would destroy millions of transistors!

A single transistor at 65 nanometers is about 10 times as small as a single wavelength of green light.

For more perspective, I point you to the original mind-blowing science class film. "Powers of Ten" The special effects may be a little cheesy, compared to George Lucas' ability to digitally remove all the fun and magic from his space opera, but it's still amazing.

This short film isn't about gigantic numbers, but it is thought-provoking. It's a little slow, and it's British, but don't let that turn you off.

And, if you REALLY want to have your head messed with, I encourage you to contemplate the infinity of all possibilities of existence in an inifinite number of universes (what's the plural of "universe"? I suppose there isn't one.). You'll need the current version of Flash Player. Just follow the navagation bar to "Imagining the Ten Dimensions."

No comments:

Post a Comment