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A week ago we wrote an article entitled "Can you recognize an Android?'
We were speaking of the artificial intelligence that Google and others are building into their products and in particular the Android Operating System. If you look closely at the being above with the strange eyes, you will see that is skin is a printed circuit board.
Something was recognized by the world this week that will eventually change the way we think about the chasm that separates humans from machines. The 2010 Nobel Prize in Physics was given to two Russian researchers, Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov, who are at Manchester University in England. They discovered Graphene.
They have discovered how to make a 'sheet' of material one atom thick. A stack of 3 million sheets would only be 1mm thick. It is one of the strongest materials ever tested being 200 times as strong as steel. For our purposes, Graphene has a chance to be the best way to make circuits, once the technology of making it catches up with the science.
Current integrated circuits and circuit boards are made of layers sometimes many deep to minimize the distance the signal travels and to reduce the footprint. As you can see from the Android's face above there are circuit runs all over his face. Signal paths cannot cross one another so sometimes they have to take odd routes to go from A to B and often 'dive' beneath the surface of one layer and continue on another.
All this running around limits the speed of the circuits and the electronic industry spends a lot of time trying to optimize both the printed circuit boards and the even smaller integrated circuits. Graphene will be used some day to make computers like you are using to read this information. They will be much, much faster.
Back to our Android article, it is clear that Graphene has a possible application in bio-machines that combine the way our cells work and the power of super computers.
Some years ago a Professor Adrian Sannier, then at the University of Arizona, spoke about the coming 'Aura of Computers'. He said that "we would walk around with a wireless aura that would be detected by computers and other sensors." He wasn't looking at it as a bad thing, but as a part of our evolution into a more Cyborg inhabited world. He foresaw a universe in which all humans would be an organism that has both artificial and natural systems
The geometry of Graphene
One of the most interesting parts of Graphene is its beautiful geometric shape. It has the honeycomb pattern characteristic of the optimal surface covering geometry. Notice the almost perfect match of the model and the electron microscope picture of Graphene
Graphene shown from a transmission electron microscope
The classical hexagonal honeycomb conjecture asserts that the most efficient partition of the plane into equal areas is the regular hexagonal tiling. In June 1999,Thomas Hales found a proof of the conjecture.
More formally stated:
Any partition of the plane into regions of equal area has a perimeter at least that of a regular hexagonal honeycomb tiling. This conjecture was known to the ancients, but it was finally proved by Dr. Hales.
Graphene uses this remarkable geometric property, which accounts for its thinness and strength. It is appropriate that something so magical should have such a structure.
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Saturday, October 09, 2010