Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

What do you think

  1. Feb 24, 2008 #1
    what will be the development of computer in next 20 years?
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 24, 2008 #2
    Something interesting I came across recently is that they've been able to build transistors using graphene nanoribbons instead of silicon. This is significant because it may allow the production of integrated circuits on a much smaller scale than current silicon-based technology permits, and consequently keep up with or exceed the Moore's Law increases in computer power that recently have appeared to be in jeopardy because of minimum size limits on our current silicon technology.

    I actually think that much of the potential progress to be made in the realm of computers is more on the social side of things and the actual uses computers are applied to rather than the technology side. There's really only so much to be done with more computing power.

    The average U.S. citizen nowadays has access to more computing power than the largest multinational corporation of the 1970's, I would guesstimate (between personal computers and the computers in cell phones and cars, etc., but also via the internet), but does only a fraction of the things with it that are possible. And many of the recent advances - development on the internet, for example - haven't happened because we've reached new technology plateaus, they're simply because people have refined the ways that computers are used.


    For a more specific prediction: something I've been thinking about during the last year or so is that I believe there's going to be a major shift in the science of ecology due to the miniaturization of electronic sensors and the development of sensor networks.

    Right now and historically much of the data collected in ecological studies has been made by grad students walking around in the woods and noting things down on clipboards. The meagre amounts of resulting data then get sliced and diced and statistically analyzed and squeezed to death for every little drop of significant meaning that can be wrung out of it.

    Well, in the near future I think that ecologists will have at their disposal nets of tiny grain-of-sand sized sensor packages they can easily distribute throughout and environment to get temperature, audio and vibration, accelerometers to detect movement, and maybe even cameras. Very shortly there's going to be way too much data instead of too little and the toughest job will be sorting through it all. The essential skills for an ecologist will become things like, can you write a program that will detect and distinguish different species of insect out of what's coming in on a video feed.

    I'm on the computer side of things rather than in ecological studies but I'd love to hear what an ecologist thinks about that.
  4. Feb 24, 2008 #3

    jim mcnamara

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    My area was Population Ecology - I"m somewhat out of date now. Assuming what you said will come to pass - it would be VERY expensive to seed the surface of the earth with sensors.

    What you describe is more like microclimatic studies. Ecological studies include that area, but are in no way limited to it. Most of what I've read in the past years is more about tying things together rather than investigating environments at the micro level. Not that those kinds of investigations would not go on as you indicate.

    Your view would be great for climatic and forecast meteorlogical studies.
  5. Feb 24, 2008 #4
    The expense would depend on how expensive the manufacturing process was. Digital cameras are pretty cheap at this point, as are the circuitry packages that enable wireless communication. Some of the molecular self-assembly stuff they're doing might eventually make the manufacturing process little more complicated than growing sea monkeys, believe it or not, if they were to successfully develop nano-sized devices like these. :tongue2:

    Aren't there ecological studies they do now that involve scattering cameras all over a forest that are equipped with motion sensors? When I've seen that done in television programs they end up physically walking around the forest to pick up the cameras and then manually look through the video footage. It actually seems to me that even without further miniaturization, using today's technology, you could put together a relatively inexpensive system of wireless sensor packages that could be used to perform those sorts of studies en masse and also be able to correlate environmental conditions with whatever phenomenon the cameras are trying to observe or tabulate, e.g. water temperature in relation to some observed species or behavior of fish.

    But I may be overestimating the amount of value that sort of data has, or as you say I'm probably misinterpreting which sort of science it would be valuable to.
  6. Feb 27, 2008 #5
    Yeah, here's exactly the sort of thing I'm talking about, hot off the press: NanoRadios. They just have a receiver going right now but the guy interviewed seems to think a transmitter is right around the corner. I came across the term for what I'm talking about too: Smartdust.
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?