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Physicist says Moore's Law is 'collapsing'

How would computing's evolution be affected if Gordon Moore's theory dies in 10 years?

May 2, 2012 06:00 AM ET

Computerworld - A well-known theoretical physicist has taken direct aim at a key theory in the computer industry, saying Moore's Law is collapsing.

Physicist Michio Kaku, a professor of theoretical physics at City University of New York, said in a videotaped interview on (watch below) that time is running out on the 47-year-old law. And that could affect the evolution of the computer processor.

"In about 10 years or so, we will see the collapse of Moore's Law," Kaku said. "In fact, we already see a slowing down of Moore's Law. Computing power simply cannot maintain its rapid exponential rise using standard silicon technology."

The prediction was made by Intel co-founder Gordon Moore in 1965. It holds that the number of transistors on a chip doubles about every two years and can be done inexpensively.

Kaku, like so many scientists before him, said recently the two main problems that will derail Moore's Law are heat and leakage. "That's the reason why the age of silicon will eventually come to a close," he said.

This is far from the first prediction that Moore's Law is failing.

For years, various scientists and industry analysts have been predicting the demise of this law. But for years, researchers have been pushing ahead, advancing chip structure and components and keeping Moore's Law alive.

For instance, in the fall of 2008, researchers at Montreal's McGill University reported that they had discovered a new state of matter that could greatly extend Moore's Law.

The university researchers, using temperatures 100 times colder than intergalactic space, found a quasi-three-dimensional electron crystal that could enable them to harness quantum physics to make increasingly smaller computer chips.

And in December of last year, scientific teams from McGill University and Sandia National Laboratories reported that they had built one of the smallest electronic circuits, paving the way for smaller and more powerful mobile devices. Industry analysts were quick to note that this kind of discovery could extend Moore's Law.

What's beyond silicon? Dr. Michio Kaku says, "if I were to put money on the table I would say that in the next 10 years as Moore's Law slows down, we will tweak it."

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