Tuesday, October 24, 2006

SEARCH: the Now and the Future

I received a personal email reply from Goodsearch upon signing up, thanking me for blogging about Goodsearch. Granted it could have been mass-generated by simply inserting my name as a field entry, it still feels good as I don’t take much to feel appreciated. So that’s one up for the little guys in this age where size matters.

As my wife was shopping in a local WalGreen store, I caught up on my reading by planting myself at the Magazine/Book section. After surveying the many titles on display, I picked up the Oct 2006 issue of the WIRED magazine. As usual, I first scanned the Contents page for interesting articles and one caught my attention: The Information Factories. I could have finished the article there and then if not for the fact that it was check-out time on my wife’s cue. Time must have flown by faster than I have imagined, lost in the myriad images that the article conjures up (Moore’s Law, Bell’s Law, Grosch’s Law) and marveled at the scale that the future holds for computing (tera-scale to peta- and exa-scale, the last being with 18 trailing zeroes).

I recall a talk That I attended in 2003 in Malaysia delivered by Dr. Ahamd H. Zewail, Nobel laureate in Chemistry for his studies of the transition states of chemical reactions using femtosecond spectroscopy. Now, a femtosecond is 15 trailing zeroes after the decimal point of a second. Remember the days when a billion seems astronomical (world population is just over 6 billions) and angstrom units and nano-seconds are really minute. So practically overnight we have doubled the order of magnitude of spread.

However, I felt a bit let down for not being able to finish reading the article. Buying it did cross my mind but I decided against it as it is not one of the regular magazines that I read. Then back home when I was surfing, I decided to do a search for the magazine and the article. Imagine my delight when I found that the online version is available (read here). Such a magnanimous act.

If you're fascinated by the impending dawn of the petabyte age where teleputers would outpace the current crops of mobile gadgets to oblivion, and would like to have a glimpse of what "cloudware" portends for netizens, the article would be a good read. Hope you'll be as pleasantly surprised as I was.


CY said...

Everything is smaller and faster these days!!! @_@ Speaking of really small things, I read an article about nanotechnology (in Oregon's Portland Monthly magazine) where an Oregon associate professor of biology found out how geckos can scale walls.

From the article: "Whereas normal adhesives like tape, glue or tree frog toes use sticky chemicals to bond with surfaces, geckos have evolved 'nanostructures'--highly specialized mechanisms invisible to the naked eye-- that capitalize on the intimate forces between molecules. The structures are so small that they literally bond with the opposing surface, temporarily blurring the boundary between what is gecko foot and what is wall."

And because of this, various industries (medical, military, etc) are looking into imitating this nanostructure: "Somday, electronics could be assembled not with screws, but with geometry-based adhesion modeled after the gecko toe; nanostructured Band-Aids could peel off without tearing at arm hair; and sneakers could stay on feet without help from laces."

I suppose you have already heard or read of this, but I thought it was extremely interesting and worth at least a mention. Also, according to the article, the researcher's findings (Keller Autumn of Lewis and Clark College here in Portland) was featured in two books: "The Gecko's Foot" and "The Nanotech Pioneers: Where Are They Taking Us?" in case you were looking for some reading material! :D

Daniel said...

Your discussion on this post reminds me of my interest on an interesting matter, zero-point energy and perpetual motion.

I do not quite understand most of the terms used in Wikipedia (since my degree is in finance), but they are mysterious and paradoxical.

"In effect by its very definition, Perpetual Motion is a system wherein the item in question consumes and outputs 100% of its energy constantly...No genuine perpetual motion machine currently exists, and according to certain fundamental laws in physics they cannot exist..."

Is there any environment in the universe that fundamental laws in physics have to be rewritten? That makes perpetual motion possible.

This is kind of like trading in business, in which entity with relative advantage in producing some goods exports to other entities, simultaneously import goods that other entities has relative advantage on. This increases efficiency and reduces wastage.

Sambu, the organization my dad work for, is capitalizing on two extremes. It has its plantation in labor-cheap, resource rich country, Indonesia, while setting its headquarter in talent and infrastructur-ready Singapore. It looks cross country, but it is infact just across a "big" river, giving it 2 relative advatages 'domestically'.

Bringing it back, if there is a place where perpetual motion is possible, can the energy be 'exported' back to the earth?

Another thing, scientists really need to look into wireless-electricity. Signal made it, why can't electricity? I think this is possible in the future, and there might be a energy web, we upload and download electricity.

If the upload and download of electricity is possible, then energy wastage can be reduced significantly. For example, heat from a car's engine can be converted into electricity and then uploaded to the energy-web. Same thing goes to the wind outside the window of a moving car, the change in pressure of the tyre when the car moves...

I wonder if they are all possible...

Say Lee said...

Miniaturization is the word. MEMS (micro electrical-mechanical systems) is another. Soon it will be femtotechnology as alluded to in my blog.

As for Gecko's foot, I suspect Spiderman's climbing prowess might work on the same principle too.

Yes, PMM (Perpetual Motion Machine). Whoever is successful in creating it is sure to garner the Nobel Prize. The culprit is energy loss (mostly in uncapturable heat).

A real-life analogy is water supply to our homes. From the water source to treatment plant and eventually to our homes via the distribution network, the water that flows out from our tap is close to 60% of the treated quantity in the case of Malaysia. These losses, wastage, whatever you want to call it, amounting to 40% is termed non-revenue water as the water is lost before reaching the water meter that computes the quantity we have consumed, and hence charged for it, i.e., revenue for the water supply entity. Reasons could be old leaky pipes, water pilferage.

In Singapore and Israel, the non-revenue water amounts to less than 10%. See how much wastage there is in Malaysia.

So far rewriting the Newtonian laws of physics and the Laws of thermodynamics has remained in the realm of fiction. Perhaps we need the help of a higher being whose world is governed by some other laws.

Wireless electricity? As far as I know, electricity is the flow of electrons and requires some kind of medium for its transmission (air does not have the right property to be such a medium, just look at lightning strike to get an idea).

On the other hand, there is some headway in turning the ubiquitous electrical power network (every house has at least several power outlets) as Internet backbone and network.

I'm going out on a limb on some of the above ramblings so don't take my word for it.