Café Scientifique: Computing Communities

Discover social science on a massive scale, powered by machine learning. Studying how people interact in communities is complex and difficult. Scale up to a community the size of the US political system, and the detail is overwhelming. Using computers that learn for themselves, Hanna Wallach is unpicking the patterns of massive social structures, crunching […]

Is the Microprocessor Under Threat?

Is the microprocessor under threat? Perhaps: certainly power consumption limitations reduce the proportion of transistors able to do useful work, fuelling a radical rethink of computational system design. Fortunately, custom hardware coupled with modern state-of-the art software design techniques may come to the rescue, potentially speeding up workloads by a factor of ten or more. […]

Can Computers Teach Us About Evolution of Cooperation?

Evolution can be merciless. It selects for success and banishes failure. It is therefore natural to assume that it favours genes that help themselves and not others. Yet for some reason, cooperative behaviour has managed to evolve, with no solid explanation as to why. But thanks to computer technology, we may now be closer to […]

Grow Your Own Quantum Computer

Forget the huge factories of Apple, Samsung and HP: it seems that bacteria might be able to make faster, smaller and more powerful computers than we can. Biologically based wires and tiny hard-drives have been grown in the lab by a team from the University of Leeds and the Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology. […]

Maths and Imaginary Machines

This article is taken from the Spring 2012 issue of I, Science. Programming is a skill that allows us to develop and personalise the functions of computers – and anyone can learn to harness it, argues Michael Cook One of my favourite editions of historical webcomic Hark! A Vagrant! is about Ada Lovelace, daughter of […]

Man, Remade

Are we on the brink of a future society, or already living in one? Michael Cook looks at the relationship between human and machine. Back in 1998 Kevin Warwick, now Professor of Cybernetics at the University of Reading, underwent an operation to have an RFID chip inserted into his own body, a small piece of […]

Three, Two, One: Activate

I’ll be the first to admit that I thought this was a tiny robot dance-off at first, but it’s actually the ROBO-ONE Championship – a humanoid-robot fighting competition that saw its tenth anniversary this year in Japan. The video shows the red-armed GAROO fighting off Gargoyle Mini to take the crown for a second year […]

HECToR: The 300 million dollar computer

In April 2003 UK’s national hero of informatics, HPCx, was the second most powerful supercomputer in the world, but a new superhero was destined to substitute it within four years: HECToR’s time had arrived. HECToR, whose acronym stays for High End Computing Terascale Resources, started to be under the spotlights in October 2007 and is […]

Don’t Stop Me Now! (Race at 8.2 PetaFLOPS)

“It is unworthy of excellent men to lose hours like slaves in the labour of calculation which could safely be relegated to anyone else if machines were used”. These words, sounding a bit elitist, were pronounced by Gottfried Leibniz, the German mathematician and philosopher who dedicated his life to the foundation of the modern mathematical […]

Virtual lovers and cyber-livers: the Future of Augmented Reality

There’s a zombie standing in my kitchen. It doesn’t look too dangerous, but it’s dripping god-knows-what onto the linoleum and it doesn’t appear to be wearing any trousers. Arms outstretched, it lumbers forward, grey fingers reaching out for my neck. I press a small, blue button. The zombie convulses, a red patch appears on its […]

Tiny terabytes – storing data in a single molecule

Storage of larger and larger quantities of data is constantly taking up smaller and smaller amounts of physical space. But what about storing data in a single molecule? Since the early 1990s single molecule magnets (SMMs) have been explored as a means of data storage and recent research at the University of Nottingham has produced […]

Robo-revolution

As computers have become more developed and intricate they have been given responsibility for many tasks that people used to carry out. However, how close are we to them taking over everything we do, resulting in a Hollywood-esque robotic revolution? Turing intelligence Scientists have been asking this question for a very long time. The famous […]

A new spin on computing

Spin, as anyone who has ever heard Alistair Campbell speak, is a tricky thing to figure out. Quantum spin – a property many subatomic particles have – is equally confounding, but, if understood, could lead to a powerful new breed of computer technology called spintronics. Despite its name, quantum spin does not actually refer to […]