My understanding of computers and the Digital Age is a choice of either 5 years of having to use it or 2 weeks of trying to maintain an interest about it when listening to those who make it work.
A few weeks ago, I got into a conversation about social media and the digital age in general. What I heard from the Experts in IT and Physics, and what I could understand of it, is that there is a good chance that it may all be coming to end a lot sooner than we thought – not so much ‘end’, but more along the lines of “something extraordinarily different” replacing it.
The Digital Age came to be when the best scientists in physics and engineering got together 60 years ago and made an effort to reduce the size and the energy cost of a transistor so that it could allow the flow of electricity to be more precise than it had ever been before. It was to change the control over electrons to a level far beyond anything that had been attempted before. This precise control would reduce all the problems of electromagnetism and thermodynamics, thereby allowing the transistor to be reduced in size and switch between two states faster than had ever thought possible.
I would place using a computer at about the same level as modern conveniences such as heating, water, a roof over your head and a toilet that will only ever have your bottom sitting on it.
For a scientist, if they attempted to revert back to using pencil and paper, they would slow down the progress of the current understanding they have of physics and quantum mechanics. This could be understood as the time it takes to complete their work, but what I’m really getting at is that our technology – which is getting to the point where we’re definitely not laughing about reaching another planet we could live on – is getting to a point where, if we didn’t have the transistor in 1956 in the way that we did, we would be living still in the mid 1980s today. Maybe another group of scientists would get together later on if 1956’s transistor revolution didn’t occur, but I’m confident it would be 30 years out of sync with our current revolution in computers and the Digital Age.
Scientists have so much data, and so much information, that a computer is what they turn to when they don’t know what is going to happen, such as when they turn on a magnetic fusion reactor that creates a temperature of 200 million degrees, thereby creating plasma. There is no way scientists could build a Tokamak magnetic fusion reactor just by knowing quantum fields exist. They have to simulate it; then the computer tells them that the Tokamak magnetic fusion reactor needs to be designed with the properties of a ‘quantum torus’ engineered precisely to confine the plasma in the very shape and form that quantum fields are telling it to follow. In a way, it’s not just plasma – it’s quantum plasma.
Computers use their ability to deal with numbers to simulate our physical world – and our universe. Numbers are able to explain everything around us and why it is happening in the way that it does; from the very small to the very large. You don’t really need to know everything about numbers – you just need to know that that’s the way it is.
And because of that, computers have changed our perception of everything around us. Computers can slow things down, speed things up, crunch it down to manageable pieces or deal with our reality through numbers for as long as it takes for them to come up with whatever it was you put them to task.
Simulation is what you do when you need to know something that you couldn’t do before without a) getting the budget for it b) dying for it c) regretting it and, lastly d) checking what you’re doing before you do the real thing. So simulating the conditions you’re about to put into practice brought up this idea in my head about computers simulating our physical world with their ability to crunch very small and very large numbers. What numbers does our physical world – our universe – use that would reflect a virtual simulation? I couldn’t find this out for a long while and nothing really explained it exactly how I wanted to understand it, until I understood it like this:
For a computer to simulate and therefore accurately duplicate the complexity of our physical world, it would need to be able to compute the number of molecules in a single drop of water in 1 second, so that the human brain would know that a simulation had occurred by observing it. So the question is, how long does a supercomputer take, by using numbers, to simulate the physical reality we’re in?
It took me a while to get my head around this, but it turns out that a supercomputer – which is around a hundred thousand trillion times faster than me with numbers, can simulate 0.1 nanosecond of about a million water molecules, taking an entire day to finish computing it. So, if I understand this correctly, a supercomputer is, at the very least, 1 ten millionth of the computing power needed to simulate, in normal time, our physical world through the use of arithmetic from an even smaller part of the water droplet’s whole… but wait for it, that’s not the hard part that you have to wrap your brain around. This is the hard part: there are as many water molecules in a drop of water as there are grains of sand on all the beaches on Earth. So, how long would it take a supercomputer to simulate the exact identity of a drop of water as it is represented by our reality via arithmetic?
Whatever we’re trying to do with the transistor and the supercomputers that use them, isn’t nearly enough to waste the entire life cycle of our solar system, until it’s blown away by our own Sun, to find that out.
Supercomputers today are not super at all. I wouldn’t call a computer with trillions of transistors from thousands of individual Silicon Chips, using 60 Million Watts of electrical energy, ‘super’ at all. All that’s happened is pushing 60 years of refinement just as far as you can take it without being totally and economically crazy and all you’re doing is reducing the time that a scientist takes to solve a problem so that it doesn’t exceed their life expectancy.
The Digital Age is trying to move forward, but it’s not. It probably will, but it’s also very unlikely if we keep doing what we always do – which is to use stuff up until there’s nothing left and then there being this latent period of trying to make something better to replace it as the bottom falls out of the sciences.
The Academic Community – and the Universities of the World – are beginning to realise that without supercomputers, they’re doing less and less as other instruments that observe and record data, at an unparalleled level, require a proportional amount of processing to deal with it so that it makes any sense to work on it – or can be used to make sense of something else. The question of what to do with it all, is as large as the data that’s flying back at us in a never ending stream.
Academic students are spending more time waiting somewhere else after they hit the ‘Enter’ key than they are working on the problem. Not to mention that, if they do have access to supercomputers in the near future, the simulation would have to last a nanosecond in simulated time because it uses 60 Mega Watts just to do anything more after an entire day doing it. That’s with the understanding that they only want to know how water molecules interact with whatever it is they had in mind, and if it was ever going to be useful in the first place. I’m not sure, at this time of this blog, who is paying the electric bills.
Experimentation is either something you’re going to try or something you’re going to risk; like throwing a half-eaten cucumber sandwich into a Tokamak magnetic fusion reactor’s plasma ring and seeing what would happen, but with a possible fusion explosion I think it would be best to simulate it first. The decisions for scientists must be frustrating to say the least in terms of either if they know or, they don’t know for sure and therefore, have to wait a lot of time – for even the simplest of molecular simulations. I definitely would like to know what would happen if you chucked a half-eaten cucumber sandwich into a Tokamak magnetic fusion reactor… at least by the time my sanity gave out from old age after waiting for the simulation to complete to let me know.
I’m pretty sure scientists take risks because of this. Of course they do – and I would encourage that, because I do it all the time on a bike. But not with a Tokamak magnetic fusion reactor. So yes – scientists take note – something going wrong with 200 Million Degrees of plasma possibly can’t ever happen under testing, only when it’s out in the wild running a new generation of consumer water heaters that also have the added benefit of giving you an excuse to work on that steam train you have in your garage that you won in an auction from an unexpected benefit of Great Britain’s post-Brexit problems hitting their economy and them selling everything in some kind of super car boot sale.
I’m really not comfortable with this at all. It’s kind of like attaching massive bicycle wheels to an oil tanker and somebody I’m in competition with turns to me and says, “I’ve cycled an oil tanker with four giant bicycle wheels and crossed the English Channel with it”, and I sort of look down at my wilted bike and my collective genitalia.
Every moment I think about approaching Quantum Computers, I begin to wonder if they’re what I think they are. Quantum computers – they exist and they… sort of work really well. No more than a few days ago, I didn’t even know a quantum computer existed, so this is going to be hard going. So what was the first thing I asked myself to then move that lack of understanding to a blog?
Is a Quantum Computer ‘Digital’; does it use transistors and electrons? It’s two questions, but I put a semi-colon in it to create a quantum grammatical state of two being one. And it’s only got one question mark so there’s that if, when observed, it wasn’t the case.
A quantum computer is the source of everything that the Digital Age came from before we knew what it was, but it isn’t digital and it’s not a transistor – and yet it is. Think of it like biting into an apple, only just before you did, you extract one atom out of it and bite into that instead. You didn’t bite into an apple….. only the source of it and all things.
What’s bizarre about this statement I just made, is that I don’t know what I just said to make me say that. I read about Quantum Theory and that’s how I perceive Quantum Theory and, hopefully, what a quantum computer might be. It’s also how I perceive a quantum magnetic field in the shape of a torus; to twist the magnetic fields into that shape that could contain 200 Million Degrees of plasma more precisely. When I read about quantum theory, I see all things being possible beyond the confines of what I understand about physics – so, how could I be wrong….. because quantum is everything, before anything is possible, that makes sense.
Computers are made out of a lot of different materials.
The primary component is a chemical element called Silicon. It’s a shame all the other stuff used to make a computer sound boring if I typed them in here. ‘Silicon Chip’ is just so awesome; it’s so like a term you would have used in a Sci-Fi movie before silicon computers were invented- maybe they invented something before it, like the ‘carbon super-abacus operated by wind-power machine’….. I’m not sure where I’m going with that or where that came from – sorry.
When you see a Silicon Wafer, it looks awesome; it looks Space Age. It looks like a Compact Disc that can actually do something beyond what you know it to be. To me the Digital Age is more about its visual appearance than anything that it actually does. It’s also so out of place with what we’re using in everything else, if it were absent of it. A world without Silicon Chips is like a world without any future that could ever be in sight in terms of how we see Sci-Fi.
The ingredients that make Silicon Chips and computers are running out. The first time I heard about this wasn’t in the conversations I had with the Experts a few weeks ago, it was on a BBC documentary about Silicon Valley. In a mandatory take of ‘They’re not entirely sure’ …. but, “in 10 years”… the amount of resources we’re wasting manufacturing supercomputers and giving almost every single human being on Earth either one or a dozen different means to have a computer based on these materials, we’ll have none left to make any more of it.
The world seems to know about this and I haven’t seen any panic in the streets of late, so I guess some backup plan is in effect already for the next 10 years.
The Ageing Darkness
A quantum computer is extracting a state of an atom and making its quantum existence do something from another state of physics to the side we’re on – the one where our existence knows it’s there – where we can interact with it. No more and no less than a transistor extracts the state of electricity, the part of it where the electrons follow a quantum path giving the illusion of electricity as we understand it. This quantum part of electricity and its electron identity is not unlike the circular ring flow of plasma in a quantum torus. Again, I don’t know why exactly I used ‘illusion’ to describe that because, in my mind, I can’t believe it exists.
But there is something about quantum mechanics that doesn’t ordinarily occur in our physical world – even though it does. Everything that could ever be or could possibly ever want to be or have to be or is needed to be, occurs there, before it then substitutes itself in our physical world as a result; determination – whatever it is as I understand it. It therefore means that, if quantum computers tap into the atom in this way, all possible instances of whatever there is before it was determined would be known.
A quantum computer doesn’t look at data – data being atoms, which is seriously difficult to contend with as it is – in the way that a supercomputer would by starting at 0 and counting to one hundred thousand trillion. As soon as a quantum computer has the data and can access it, all possible points of beginning and end, become one or infinite. It would look at all the molecules in a drop of water – as defined by arithmetic – and know all possible versions of each molecule and what they would do with the other if they were flowing down a surface that was either smooth or rough; over undulating surface of rocks, each with their own set of molecules. Trillions of molecules in one instance of time, moving to another instant of time – all would be known before and after the event of time had occurred. Whatever time it would take, would be the same our reality would take – which is measured in time scales where we’re not even sure if they occurred or not, but did – because a quantum computer is shaped to following that behavior.
The brightest light in our understanding is the time it doesn’t take to know it. Quantum computers will remove that final darkness; moving us into another Age as it did 60 years ago.
This blog has to be under 3,000 words. If I had a quantum computer that had every single one of my atoms and molecules stored in its memory, in the correct order – through arithmetic – it would have done it in exactly the same way even though it could never give an indication that it was right or wrong. It would only have ever been what it already was in the beginning and at its end. I’m also of the understanding that it doesn’t have any opinions about what it is I’m trying to do and goes easy on me if there has to be any result that came about from this; whether I’m alive or not, so that – at some point in time – it had already determined those atoms had to be put to use somewhere else to at least ease the confusion in another collective of atoms trying to figure out why it had come to exist in the first place.
For Part 2, click here.