Four and Half Years On

He paid out on the first bet less than a year later, but the second challenge took longer. Feynman paid out on this in 1986, just two years before he was struck down with cancer, an untimely death that left the American scientific community in a deep mourning from which it has barely recovered.

For the story of those lectures, download or read online this excellent article by Tony Hey, published in Contemporary Physics in 1999. The Japanese lecture has been printed up, I have it somewhere, but not here in New Zealand where I am writing this. It’s the third one in this list of his publications and is well worth reading.

For more on Feynman, simply look up his interviews on YouTube. You might as well start with this one on waves, it’ll give you an idea of his charisma, his passion, his restless curiosity and the pleasure he takes in the complexities and anomalies of … everything.

Parallel and Quantum computing

Anyway, what Feynman first suggested was that computers could move away from the “Turing model” of registering and addressing sequentially and look to what is known as “parallel computing”. This has never really taken off, perhaps as a result of computing getting stuck in its own way of doing things and there being three decades worth of bloated ‘legacy’ from which there is no chance of escape.

But Feynman went further and proposed the possibilities of quantum computing. At a subatomic level. Please don’t ask me to explain something I don’t understand. I’ll ride in the jet, but don’t ask me to build it. I don’t mind telling you that I’m wa-a-a-ay out of my depth in all of this. I just repeat what someone I trust tells me. And then I check with my father and get the real truth as he is pretty close to being a Feynman himself.

Boil in the bag rice with chips

I suppose what it all boils down to is this. Moore’s Law has plenty of years left in it and its ever more steeply growing rice-on-the-chessboard curve will give rise to chips, integrated circuits, that will drive computational devices of such speed and power that they will in turn help engineers construct new kinds of machines that mimic what Schrödinger called the “entanglement” of activity at the quantum level.

Down to business

All that is fascinating and probably no more or less believable than any other prediction. If it achieves nothing more than introducing the world of Feynman to anyone who had been previously unfamiliar with it, then this blessay will have done an absolute good.

Meanwhile let’s descend to the rather more banal level of the consumer devices that I have spent the best part of my adult life slavishly following, loving, hating, dreaming of and desiring.

The latest intel…

Talking of Gordon Moore (my mother occasionally used something called Gordon Moore’s Cosmetic Toothpaste, I don’t think he can have been responsible for that as well?) the great man will be pleased to see, no doubt, that the company he helped found has just entered the smartphone market. A deal with Orange should see Intel phones in Europe in a month or so. Intel will make the silicon, Android will provide the operating system. At the moment it looks like they’ll be launching with the 2.4 Gingerbread version of Android, rather than the exciting new 4.0 release, which is called Ice Cream Sandwich. As you probably know Google and the Android people like to name their distributions after desserts and cakes. Well, why not?

Microsoft, of course, are not much in the hardware business, save for their highly successful Xbox and its super-duper-hooper-whooper successful Kinect accessory. Whether Windows 8 will help revive the somewhat flagging fortune of Dell and other PC manufacturers remains to be seen. But doubtless Intel, who provide the CPUs for Macs and PCs alike will do well in either case. Perhaps it is the success of Apple’s design and construction of their own A class chip (now at A5+ in the new iPad) that has caused Intel to realise that being an OEM, an original equipment manufacturer, isn’t such a bad game to be in after all. So welcome, Intel.

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