RE: [asa] LHC, TOE, and the limits of knowledge

From: Dehler, Bernie <bernie.dehler@intel.com>
Date: Wed Sep 17 2008 - 12:00:44 EDT

Hi Randy-

 I agree the massive scaling we've seen in microelectronics doesn't apply to all fields. On the other hand, we never knew of the possible scaling in micro-electronics until after the fact. It was impossible to predict. I confess I don't know any details about the particle physics and atom smashing.

 But I'm of the mind of very hopeful for totally new discoveries that can't be forseen. We have some experience with harnessing wind power, solar power, water power, nuclear power, etc. I'm thinking of a future when we could harness the power of gravity (it seems like a source of energy in constant operation). Maybe more discoveries of things like the graviton and such. Just as those who lived in the time of Christ had primitive science compared to us (in modes of transportation, etc), our current scientific understanding is very primitive compared to 100 years from now. People like Craig Ventor are researching ways to "write" DNA code. We will be directly modifying DNA code, and the resulting organism, in a few years. Add to that the research of figuring out how the DNA code precisely works- which genes do what, will create an explosion in pharmaceutical science.

 Sometimes scientists are too wrapped-up with what they know and think they know it all. For example, Max Planck was advised by a Professor not to go into physics because there was nothing left to discover. But he's one of those who started the new field of quantum mechanics.

From:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Max_Planck
"The Munich physics professor Philipp von Jolly advised Planck against going into physics, saying, "in this field, almost everything is already discovered, and all that remains is to fill a few holes." Planck replied that he did not wish to discover new things, only to understand the known fundamentals of the field, and began his studies in 1874 at the University of Munich."

...Bernie

-----Original Message-----
From: asa-owner@lists.calvin.edu [mailto:asa-owner@lists.calvin.edu] On Behalf Of Randy Isaac
Sent: Tuesday, September 16, 2008 4:57 PM
To: asa@calvin.edu
Subject: Re: [asa] LHC, TOE, and the limits of knowledge

No, Bernie, I think you're missing something fundamental here. While none of
us wants to say "never" and won't, nevertheless your analogy doesn't apply.
Of course, no one imagined a tabletop ENIAC. But not for fundamental
principles, only engineering and technology ones which always will be ripe
for innovation.

In other words, Bernie, we're trying to get you to a point of balance. While
it is true that we can never rule out and should always hope for and
cultivate the possibility of radical new inventions that will totally
revolutionize a field, on the other hand we cannot hold out hope for every
field of possible, hoped-for innovation and claim it might happen based on
analogy with a field like microelectronics. There simply isn't any basis for
a general possibility of such advances.

The migration of the ENIAC to today's laptop is phenomenal. Those of us who
were fortunate enough to have a part in making it happen are even more awed
than the users. But it doesn't serve as a model for every field. In
particular, it doesn't map very well to the field of particle accelerators.
(Maybe this would be a great place to apply the explanatory filter with the
appropriate specified complexity. The probability might just be less than
10^-150. Or perhaps 10^-10. Who knows.)

Besides, where does this discussion lead us? What is the difference whether
we are optimistic or pessimistic about having a tabletop accelerator in the
future? Nothing. Except for the basic process of thinking about what is
possible and what isn't and where to place our energies.

Randy
----- Original Message -----
From: "Dehler, Bernie" <bernie.dehler@intel.com>
To: <asa@calvin.edu>
Sent: Tuesday, September 16, 2008 5:01 PM
Subject: RE: [asa] LHC, TOE, and the limits of knowledge

>" Getting a tabletop TEV
> accelerator is not one where I would recommend putting all your life's
> savings."
>
> I can imagine somebody saying the same thing about a table-top ENIAC when
> the first ENIAC was made. A table-top ENIAC? No way. However, today's
> laptop is much more powerful. Not only was the transistor not yet
> invented, the Eniac didn't even use the binary numeral system, which all
> computers use now. Yes, no way at all to foresee the future. The
> internet is a recent invention that is having an incredible impact on
> society and technology, and could never have been foreseen. That's
> evolution- creating new and wonderful things that can't be imagined in the
> present state.
>
> Eniac info:
> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ENIAC
>
> The ENIAC held immediate importance. When it was announced in 1946 it was
> heralded in the press as a "Giant Brain." It boasted speeds one thousand
> times faster than electro-mechanical machines, a leap in computing power
> that has never been repeated. This mathematical power, coupled with
> general-purpose programmability, excited scientists and industrialists.
> The inventors promoted the spread of these new ideas by teaching a series
> of lectures on computer architecture.
>
> ...
>
> Besides its speed, the most remarkable thing about ENIAC was its size.
> ENIAC contained 17,468 vacuum tubes, 7,200 crystal diodes, 1,500 relays,
> 70,000 resistors, 10,000 capacitors and around 5 million hand-soldered
> joints. It weighed 30 short tons (27 t), was roughly 8.5 feet by 3 feet by
> 80 feet (2.6 m by 0.9 m by 26 m), took up 680 square feet (63 mē), and
> consumed 150 kW of power.[5]
>
>
> ...Bernie
>
> -----Original Message-----
> From: asa-owner@lists.calvin.edu [mailto:asa-owner@lists.calvin.edu] On
> Behalf Of Randy Isaac
> Sent: Tuesday, September 16, 2008 11:02 AM
> To: asa@calvin.edu
> Subject: Re: [asa] LHC, TOE, and the limits of knowledge
>
> Those of us who have grown up with the electronics industry have
> practically
> come to believe that the scaling law is a universal entitlement; we merely
> wait for the right invention. In fact, the transistor and the magnetic
> storage cell are two rather unique examples with surprisingly few
> additional
> examples. Does anyone know of another? Will there be unforeseen inventions
> which will trigger new ways of doing things. Absolutely. Can we predict
> what
> they will be? No. But we can have some guesses. Getting a tabletop TEV
> accelerator is not one where I would recommend putting all your life's
> savings. Maybe not even a dime of it. At least until Burgy has his rocket
> that will take us to Betelgeuse and back in one lifetime.
>
> Randy
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "j burg" <hossradbourne@gmail.com>
> To: "Dehler, Bernie" <bernie.dehler@intel.com>
> Cc: "asa" <asa@calvin.edu>
> Sent: Tuesday, September 16, 2008 11:52 AM
> Subject: Re: [asa] LHC, TOE, and the limits of knowledge
>
>
>> >
>>> Just like computers were made of vacuum tubes and people thought that
>>> was
>>> the future- more and more of them, in bigger and bigger rooms. Then the
>>> transistor was invented and re-shaped everything. The first computer
>>> chip
>>> had a few transistors, but now there's billions in there (up to 2
>>> billion
>>> now).
>>>
>> Just like the physics of 1954 (or so) in which it could be shown w/o
>> any doubt that a chemical rocket could never get to the moon.
>>
>> Then Arthur Clarke suggested a multistage design ... .
>>
>> Burgy
>>
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Received on Wed Sep 17 12:01:11 2008

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