Saturday, September 18, 2010

Size Matters

     Recently I purchased a Philips “GoGear,” a gadget that holds music and/or pictures. It is 1-1/2” x 2-1/2” x 1/2” in size, and holds up to 900 songs or 1,500 pictures. If you have read previous entries in my blog, you know of my interest in music. I don't have 900 songs in it – yet - but I do have almost 800. Younger readers probably would not recognize the artists in my collection.
     The GoGear not only holds the songs - they can be replayed either in the order they were entered into the device, or by individual selection. One can also replay them in random order, or by artist, album, or individually tailored playlist. The gadget cost me $40 at Walmart.
     Now I am telling you this because the device is an example of the rapidly increasing amount of information which can be stored in smaller and smaller volumes. When I was young (a contemporay of Alley Oop), a collection of 900 songs would have required a minimum of 450 “records.” Assuming each record was 1/4” thick, the stack would have been over 9 feet high and 10 inches in diameter.
     Miniaturization is the buzz word of the day. We know the Air Force has been sending miniature unmanned planes (drones) into combat zones. But the Pentagon is also developing smaller drones which mimic insects. Some resemble a dragon-fly in appearance and size; they can hover outside a window, observe what is happening in the room, and report back to their controllers. Even smaller ones have been developed that can enter a building and fly from room to room, reporting all events within range of their sensors.
     Although the word is out that the Pentagon is developing “micro-dust,” progress on the project is a closely guarded secret. Theoretically, a minature drone or a passerby could unobtrusively deposit thousands of tiny sensors on an individual or a vehicle; thereafter every movement of the target could be followed. Suspected terrorists, beware.
     It has long been a rule of thumb that the amount of stored information per square unit roughly doubles every 18 months. With many gigabytes (billions of units of information) now available on tiny chips, the limit of chip storage, at least as presently configured, will be reached in the not too distant future.
     But not to worry, configurations utilizing 3-dimensional chips are now in the works, and even that is not the limit. Information storage utilizing molecular physics and even quantum mechanics is in the development stage.
     I suspect it will not be too long before a budding Einstein will know everything there is to know about nothing at all.
******
     Eventually men began to detect interactions among the components of the universe; interactions that could be described in the language of mathematics. New constructs, the laws of nature, redefined the old constructs. Planets followed regular orbits, velocity and acceleration could be described precisely, electricity and radiation were discovered; the world bustled with activity.
     Constructs – The Spirit Runs Through It.

     The book or a free download is available in paperback or on Kindle.

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