Saturday, April 01, 2006

Matter Itself Is
Beginning To
Wake Up
IBM Creates Tool Which
Could Be Used To Build
Atom-Sized Computer

From Agence French Press:

The development was touted as a step toward making computers based on the spin of electrons and atoms.

"We have a tool in place to develop the product of the future," said German-born researcher Andreas Heinrich of IBM's Almaden Research Center in San Jose, California.

"We all know we can't shrink the silicon-based technology used in today's computers down to the atomic level. We have to look at a radically different concept, and that is what we are doing here."

The new method was called "spin-excitation spectroscopy" and used a specially-designed microscope capable of creating magnetic fields as much as 140,000 times stronger than that of the Earth, scientists said.

Researchers were able to manipulate atoms and measure the effect their spins had on each other, according to IBM.

"We can study the magnetic phenomena used in hard drives, but on the scale of single atoms," Heinrich told AFP. "It could enable us, in the very far future, to be able to build computer devices on an atomic scale."

Why is this important? Well, read this post from CUANAS.

Here is an excerpt:

What happens if you string atoms together into an atomic chain functioning as parelell processors?:

LOS ALAMOS, N.M. — The only hint that anything extraordinary is happening inside the brown stucco building at Los Alamos National Laboratory is a small metal sign posted in front:

"Warning! Magnetic Field in Use. Remain on Sidewalk." Come much closer and you risk having the magnetic stripes on your credit cards erased.The powerful field is emanating from the supercooled superconducting magnets inside a tanklike machine called a nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometer.

The device itself is unremarkable. N.M.R. machines are used in chemistry labs across the world to map the architecture of molecules by sensing how their atoms dance to the beat of electromagnetic waves. Hospitals and clinics use the same technology, called magnetic resonance imaging, or M.R.I., to scan the tissues of the human body.

The machine at Los Alamos has been enlisted on a recent morning for a grander purpose: to carry out an experiment in quantum computing. By using radio waves to manipulate atoms like so many quantum abacus beads, the Los Alamos scientists will coax a molecule called crotonic acid into executing a simple computer program.

Last year they set a record, carrying out a calculation involving seven atoms. This year they are shooting for 10. That may not sound like many.

Each atom can be thought of as a little switch, a register that holds a 1 or a 0, and the latest Pentium chip contains 42 million such devices. But the paradoxical laws of quantum mechanics confer a powerful advantage: a single atom can do two calculations at once. Two atoms can do four, three atoms can do eight.

By the time you reach 10, doubling and doubling and doubling along the way, you have an invisibly tiny computer that can carry out 1,024 (210) calculations at the same time.

If scientists can find ways to leverage this achievement to embrace 20 atoms, they will be able to execute a million simultaneous calculations. Double that again to 40 atoms, and 10 trillion calculations can be done in tandem.

The goal, still but a distant glimmer, is to harness thousands of atoms, resulting in a machine so powerful that it would easily break codes now considered impenetrable and solve other problems that are impossible for even the fastest supercomputer.

"We are at the border of a new territory," said Dr. Raymond Laflamme, one of the leaders of the Los Alamos project. "All the experiments today are a very small step, but they show that there is not a wall."

In other words, less than one hundred atoms would be faster than the largest computer on Earth today.

Ok, that is amazing enough, but there is a further implication to this atomic quantum computing. Think about it. We're talking about using atoms as computers.What is the world made up of?Yes, that's right, atoms.

Obviously, huh?

But, if we can use atoms as microprocessors, then can we use the matter around us as microprocessors, turning the world itself into a gigantic computer?Ray Kurzweil believes that is going to happen

This is from an interview with Mr. Kurzweil from What is Enlightenment? magazine:

WIE: You mentioned earlier that as human beings we naturally seek to expand our horizons, and that in the future we will do so largely through the expansion of our intelligence. Do you see the expansion of human intelligence as an evolutionary end in itself?

RK: Well, it's a good question. It's like asking, "What is the purpose of life?" In my mind, we will ultimately saturate all of the matter and energy in our area of the universe with our intelligence, and I suppose you could say that's an end in itself. All of this dumb matter and energy around us will wake up and become sublimely intelligent. Then it will spread out to the whole universe at the fastest speed information can flow. And one could make an argument that it's not going to take an infinitely long time because there may be other ways to get to other parts of the universe through shortcuts like wormholes, which physics has postulated. Eventually the whole universe will, essentially, wake up.