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This is your mind on media.

Musings on the effects of media on cognition.

In Atoms, Please

Google calculator is great fun. One of the things that it does that I have found invaluable is conversions; meaning, you can find the value of a pound in grams simply by typing “1lb in grams.” One that I thought of today, after encountering an article on Wikipedia about Moore’s Law was converting various unit measurements into the width of atoms. In the entry on Moore’s Law it is mentioned that IBM has recently engineered a process for printing circuitry that is only 29.9 nanometers in width. Elsewhere I discovered that an atom is roughly 130 picometers in width. (Of course, when you get down to this level of specificity, atoms vary greatly in width, but this measure is fine for fun.) So, if you want to know the width of these IBM printed circuits in atoms, you just type “29.9nm in pm” and you’ll get a result, 29,900, in picometers that you then divide by 130. So the new chip circuitry is roughly 230 atoms across! So how about your finger? Well, mine is roughly 150cm across, which, by my calculations is 1.15384615 × 1010 atoms across, or about 11 and a half quintillion atoms across. (Anybody feel free to check my math or disagree with these results!) And a quintillion in pennies is this much.

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