Toward a Type 1 civilization

July 30, 2008

In a 1964 article on searching for extraterrestrial civilizations, the Soviet astronomer Nikolai Kardashev suggested using radio telescopes to detect energy signals from other solar systems in which there might be civilizations of three levels of advancement: Type 1 can harness all of the energy of its home planet; Type 2 can harvest all of the power of its sun; and Type 3 can master the energy from its entire galaxy.  Fossil fuels won’t get us there. Renewable sources such as solar, wind and geothermal are a good start, and coupled to nuclear power could eventually get us to Type 1.  Yet the hurdles are not solely — or even primarily — technological ones. We have a proven track record of achieving remarkable scientific solutions to survival problems — as long as there is the political will and economic opportunities that allow the solutions to flourish. In other words, we need a Type 1 polity and economy, along with the technology, in order to become a Type 1 civilization.

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Newly found planets make case for ‘crowded universe’

July 15, 2008

European astronomers have found a trio of “super-Earths” closely circling a star that astronomers once figured had nothing orbiting it.  The discovery demonstrates that planets keep popping up in unexpected places around the universe.  The announcement is the first time three planets close to Earth’s size were found orbiting a single star, said Swiss astronomer Didier Queloz.  He was part of the Swiss-French team using the European Southern Observatory’s La Silla Observatory in the desert in Chile.  The mass of the smallest of the super-Earths is about four times the size of Earth.  Scientists are more interested in the broader implications of the finding: The universe is teeming with far more planets than thought.  Using a new tool to study more than 100 stars once thought to be devoid of planets, the Swiss-French team found that about one-third had planets that are only slightly bigger than Earth.

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Intel says to prepare for ‘thousands of cores’, sub 10nm chips

July 4, 2008

Intel currently offers quad-core processors and is expected to bring out a Nehalem processor in the fourth quarter that uses as many as eight cores.

On Monday, an Intel engineer took this a step further. Writing in a blog, Anwar Ghuloum, a principal engineer with Intel’s Microprocessor Technology Lab, said: “Ultimately, the advice I’ll offer is that…developers should start thinking about tens, hundreds, and thousands of cores now.”

Intel sees a “clear way” to manufacturing chips under 10 nanometers and when the semiconductor industry transitions to 450mm silicon wafers around 2012, the number of companies that run their own fabs will drop into the single digits.

Speaking about Intel co-founder Gordon Moore’s eponymous “law” regarding the expected doubling of transistors per integrated circuit every two years, Gelsinger noted that there was a time when he and his Intel colleagues wondered if they’d ever be able to scale chips below 100 nanometers.

“But we did do that, and today we see a clear way to get to under 10 nanometers. With Moore’s Law we always have about 10 years of visibility into the future, so beyond 10 nanometers, we’re not sure how we’ll do it,” he said.

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