Unhappy with the battery life and speed of your new smartphone? Fear not: There's news today of a computing breakthrough that promises to make computer chips faster, cheaper and more energy efficient.
Silicon has been the basic material of computer electronics for decades. But Stanford University researchers say they've developed a computer based on a technology called carbon nanotubes. These are little carbon wires so small that up to 150,000 could fit in the width of a human hair.
But should you really care? Yes:
- Because the speed of silicon chips are about to hit a wall.
A laptop today would've been considered a supercomputer 20 years ago. Every couple years, processors have gotten smaller and faster, relentlessly. But that progress is going to slow down soon.
"People are very worried that ten years from now we will completely run out of steam," says Kevin Skadron who heads the computer science department at the University of Virginia.
Silicon chips are made more powerful as we pack more transistors into them. But that sucks up more and more power, and they get too hot.
"The total power of the chip keeps going up and we can’t cost effectively cool that," Skadron says.
On top of that, we can only get silicon circuits so small before they stop working well. Enter the carbon nanotube.
"Carbon nanotubes just make that problem go away,” says Skadron.
Carbon nanotubes are tiny (up to 150,000 could fit in the width of the thickest human hair) rolled up tubes of carbon. They have low electrical resistance, and can be scaled down far beyond what Silicon can do. The computer that researchers at Stanford created using carbon nanotube transistors is very basic -- it has 178 transistors, while a Microsoft Xbox One gaming system has 5 billion -- but it works.
Stanford's Subhasish Mitra, who led the research says, "this is the first demonstration that you can build something real beyond silicon transistors."
- Your cellphone will thank you. (In the future, when it’s a sentient being.)
Carbon nanotubes may not create full-blown artificial intelligence, at least not any time soon, but the circuitry could do wonders for your smart phone.
"You care about two things when it comes to your cellphone or computer – you care about how fast it is and how long its battery is," says Max Shulaker, a grad student who was the lead author on the nanotube computing paper that announced the work in the journal Nature. "Those are the two things which carbon nanotubes improve by an order of magnitude."
- Think beyond your cell phone
Longer lasting phone batteries (which would be a small miracle) is thinking small, says Sharad Malik who teaches electrical engineering at Princeton.
"If we do this right, we should see not just future smartphones but something which we can’t even imagine today," he says. "That’s the real promise here."
- But don’t get crazy.
Siri isn’t going to turn into Hal anytime soon. There are a lot of issues that need resolving before carbon nanotubes are going to appear in your microwave or desktop. The Stanford computer is just an example that it’s possible, sort of like the Wright Brothers’ plane demonstrated human flight was possible. It’ll take a decade at least for this technology to reach consumers.
U.S. households spent .3 percent more in August than they did in the previous month according to new figures out today. In more positive news, incomes rose .4 percent in August, the biggest month-to-month gain since February. Chris Low, chief economist at FTN Financial, calls this is a pleasant surprise.
Most individuals face a challenge in managing the money they make and the money they spend. The solution, of course, is making a budget. When it comes to talking about government spending and debt, a lot of politicians and talking heads like to compare the spending of the entire country to spending at an individual level -- saying if families can manage to stick to a budget, so can the government.
The analogy makes some sense: it's easy to get our heads around.Obama & the debt ceiling: An explainer
The government is considering raising the debt ceiling -- again. But what exactly is the debt ceiling: Watch an explainer to understand what's at stake and what it means for you and me. Watch now
But Marketplace’s David Gura says the government is huge with a lot of complicated expenses. For the individual, or the family, they really only have to worry about housing, food, transportation, and a few other categories. But government spending priorities are very different: take the example of defense spending, which isn't exactly on the family balance sheet, but takes up about 20 percent of the national budget. Plus, a big chunk of the budget goes to social welfare programs, which isn't the same for families.
On the other side of the balance sheet, the government can also tax people and print money. They can also borrow at much lower rates than the average person.
October the 1st is when the health insurance exchanges will open. Those exchanges are a centerpiece of the Affordable Care Act. You can shop for a health care plan, if you don't have insurance. That includes self employed workers just like Micki Maynard, the editor of Curbing Cars and a contributor at Forbes.
She represents one area of the health care market folks who are highly successful, but might now qualify for a federal subsidy. So they have a choice to make. In her case, she just signed up for Cobra and now she needs to figure out if she'll get a better deal with the ACA.
Maynard currently holds a few different positions to bring in the paychecks -- including a teaching gig at the University of Michigan and at Central Michigan University. While teaching, she usually earns a salary from the schools. On top of that, she does a lot of freelance journalism work.How do you know if you have good health insurance?
CMU had offered her a health plan, but that just expired. She received a letter in the mail that she would be eligible for Cobra. The option she elected will be about $491 a month, and it includes prescription coverage.
Before deciding to take the Cobra insurance, however, Maynard went on to the Blue Cross Blue Shield Michigan site to calculate alternative options. To get something similar to her Cobra plan would have been just under $1,000.
"If I could get health care for $300-$400 a month I would be very, very happy," she explains. "However, I'm not sure that's going to be possible. I just don't know."
Maynard says she's looking at all of her options, including what might be available for her under the exchanges.
This final note on the way out today. Couple of quick ones, actually.
As you settle in for whatever football games you choose to watch this weekend, pause a moment for that yellow first down line on your screen. It debuted 15 years ago today on ESPN, which I thought was kind of interesting.
Google also turns 15 today, which gets us to this, from a Pew Research Center report: 56 percent of Internet users say they've Googled themselves. Which means 44 percent of y'all are lying.
A political journalist tells congressional Republicans to pull the trigger on a government shutdown and debt default... Speaker Boehner's attempt to placate his House GOP caucus' hardliners fails ... Someone goes cute and furry to sell Obamacare.
A small box found near Mont Blanc contained rubies, sapphires and emeralds thought to be worth more than $330,000. Authorities suspect they had been on board one of two Indian passenger planes that crashed in the area — one in 1950; one in 1966. The climber who found the treasure turned it in.