Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Where Worlds Collide

By Robbin Goodman, Makovsky + Company

The feats made possible through technology perhaps were never struck home in quite as dramatic a fashion as the achievement of Israeli scientists at the Technion Institute in Haifa who inscribed the entire text of the Old Testament on a space less than half the size of a grain of sugar.

As reported by the Associated Press, the scientists "carved" the 300,000 words of text by blasting tiny particles called gallium ions at an object that then rebounded, causing an etching effect. (In case you were wondering, the previous smallest known copy of the Bible measured 1.1 x 1.3 x 0.4 inches, weighing 0.4 ounces and containing 1,514 pages, according to Guinness World Record).

Of course, we live in a world where we've all gotten rather blasé about breathtaking technology achievements. I still remember writing articles and press releases on manual typewriters, and the days before there was FedEx and email, never mind Blackberrys and instant messaging. It was in 1965 that Intel's Gordon E. Moore stated what came to be known as Moore's Law - the number of transistors that can be inexpensively placed on an integrated circuit is increasing exponentially, to paraphrase, doubling price-performance of semiconductors approximately every two years - and along with that, processing speed and power. Moore's Law, over 40 years old now, was said to continue to be alive and well at the end of 2007, although improved hardware performance is not always equated with innovation.

One of the first computers, the ENIAC, released in 1946, cost $500,000 and was designed and built to calculate artillery firing tables for the U.S. Army's Ballistic Research Laboratory. It weighed 30 tons. We all have just as much or more computing power on our laptops and PDAs and Wiis for just a few hundred bucks.

That said, in spite of the difficulties of achieving true innovation these days, optimism and advancing technology go hand in hand. May they continue to flourish in the New Year and with them, humanity.

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