We all remember the story of the Persian who invented chess and who asked to be paid with 1 grain of rice on the first square, 2 on the second, 4 on the third and so on, doubling all the way to the 64th square. He bankrupted the state!

This doubling is a form of exponential growth, which appears in everything from population growth to financial inflation to the inflation theory that supposedly caused the Big Bang. Moore's Law (invented by Gordon Moore of Intel) showed that computers double in speed every 18 months, and this has held true for the last 40 years, which is why your desktop has more power than the computer on board Apollo 11.

But can Moore's Law continue? What are the limits of computing? What happened when American railroad growth stopped obeying its version of Moore's Law. Can we beat Moore's Law, and new computer technologies? As Moore himself said: 'If the automobile industry advanced as rapidly as the semiconductor industry, a Rolls Royce would get a million miles per gallon, and it would be cheaper to throw it away than to park it'. Unfortunately the Rolls Royce would also crash every 10 miles!

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Tue 30 Aug 2005 09:30