On Thu, 12 Jun 2014 12:16:08 +1000, Chris Angelico wrote:

> On Thu, Jun 12, 2014 at 12:08 PM, Steven D'Aprano
> <steve+comp.lang.pyt...@pearwood.info> wrote:
>> I'm just pointing out that our computational technology uses over a
>> million times more energy than the theoretical minimum, and therefore
>> there is a lot of room for efficiency gains without sacrificing
>> computer power. I never imagined that such viewpoint would turn out to
>> be so controversial.
> The way I understand it, you're citing an extremely theoretical minimum,
> in the same way that one can point out that we're a long way from
> maximum entropy in a flash memory chip, so it ought to be possible to
> pack a lot more data onto a USB stick. 

Um, yes? 

Hands up anyone who thinks that today's generation of USB sticks will be 
the highest capacity ever, that all progress in packing more memory into 
a thumb drive (or the same memory into a smaller drive) will cease 
effective immediately?


> The laws of physics tend to put
> boundaries that are ridiculously far from where we actually work - I
> think most roads have speed limits that run a fairly long way short of
> c.

"186,000 miles per second: not just a good idea, it's the law"

There's no *law of physics* that says cars can only travel at the speeds 
they do. Compare how fast a typical racing car goes with the typical 
60kph speed limit in suburban Melbourne. Now compare how fast the 
Hennessey Venom GT goes to that speed limit.


Speed limits for human-piloted ground-based transport ("cars") are more 
based on social and biological factors than engineering ones. Similarly, 
there are biological factors that force keyboards to be a minimum size. 
We probably could build a keyboard where the keys were 0.1mm square, but 
what would be the point? Who could use it? Those social and biological 
factors don't apply to computing efficiency, so it's only *engineering* 
factors that prevent us from being able to run your server off a watch 
battery, not the laws of physics.

It is my contention that, had Intel and AMD spent the last few decades 
optimizing for power consumption rather than speed, we probably could run 
a server off, well, perhaps not a watch battery, but surely a factor of 
100 improvement in efficiency isn't unreasonable given that we're just 
moving a picogram of electrons around?


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