In 2004, I was attending the KSCE conference in the Virgin Islands. One of the presenters, Steve Downey of the University of Illinois, was giving a talk regarding NCSA’s Knowledge Center. During his his presentation he commented that CPUs are hitting the wall in terms of Moore's law due to hardware constraints. I am not a hardware person, so when I hear a comment likes this, it makes me wonder whether or not the hardware industry will stagnate for the next couple decades. In any event, I have not slept too well since I heard that comment.
Fortunately, the hardware industry received a recent boost. Intel and IBM announced breakthroughs for smaller and more energy-efficient chips. Basically, silicon is replaced with other materials that lead to smaller chips and better performance.
This news excites me for several reasons. The technology will be invaluable for computationally intensive areas such as data mining or grid computing. Second, as transistors shrink down to atomic size, this could lead to a new dimension in computational bioinformatics at the cellular level. As I think back to the movie Fantastic Voyage (1966), perhaps it wasn’t so fantastic after all. In any event, I plan to sleep very well tonight.