What Are the Limits of Computing?
What constraints govern the physical process of computing? Is a minimum amount of energy required per logic step? There seems to be no minimum, but some other questions are open.
What's the Latest Development?
A computation, whether it is performed by electronic machinery or an abacus or in the brain, is a physical process. It is therefore subject to physical laws, but what are the physical limits of computation? And what do quantum computations imply? "Even in quantum mechanics extremely fast events can take place without any loss of energy. Our confidence that quantum mechanics allows computing without any minimum expenditure is bolstered when we remember that Benioff and others have developed models of reversible quantum-mechanical computers, which dissipate no energy and obey the laws of quantum mechanics."
What's the Big Idea?
What did computational theory look like in 1985? Many old questions are still perplexing computer scientists today: "How much energy must be expended to perform a particular computation? How long must it take? How large must the computing device be? In other words, what are the physical limits of the process of computation? So far it has been easier to ask these questions than to answer them. To the extent that we have found limits, they are terribly far away from the real limits of modern technology. ... We are looking for general laws that must govern all information processing, no matter how it is accomplished."
Lumina Foundation is partnering with Big Think to unearth the next large-scale, rapid innovation in post-high school education. Enter the competition here!
Good science is sometimes trumped by the craving for a "big splash."
- Scientists strive to earn credit from their peers, for grants from federal agencies, and so a lot of the decisions that they make are strategic in nature. They're encouraged to publish exciting new findings that demonstrate some new phenomenon that we have never seen before.
- This professional pressure can affect their decision-making — to get acclaim they may actually make science worse. That is, a scientist might commit fraud if he thinks he can get away with it or a scientist might rush a result out of the door even though it hasn't been completely verified in order to beat the competition.
- On top of the acclaim of their peers, scientists — with the increasing popularity of science journalism — are starting to be rewarded for doing things that the public is interested in. The good side of this is that the research is more likely to have a public impact, rather than be esoteric. The bad side? To make a "big splash" a scientist may push a study or article that doesn't exemplify good science.
Moans, groans, and gripes release stress hormones in the brain.
Could you give up complaining for a whole month? That's the crux of this interesting piece by Jessica Hullinger over at Fast Company. Hullinger explores the reasons why humans are so predisposed to griping and why, despite these predispositions, we should all try to complain less. As for no complaining for a month, that was the goal for people enrolled in the Complaint Restraint project.
Participants sought to go the entirety of February without so much as a moan, groan, or bellyache.
Two space agencies plan missions to deflect an asteroid.
- NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) are working together on missions to a binary asteroid system.
- The DART and Hera missions will attempt to deflect and study the asteroid Didymoon.
- A planetary defense system is important in preventing large-scale catastrophes.
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