A Telescope Aimed at the Future

The IBM Blue Gene supercomputer
Our time in history is unique in that physical knowledge and computational methods enable partial understanding of technology levels
above our own — and in some areas, far above. Because we
understand the universal physical laws that govern matter and energy,
we understand the physical laws that will govern the material
structures of future technologies.

Our time is also unique in that growing computational capacity can
enable us to simulate systems that have not yet been built: New
aircraft typically fly as expected, new computer chips typically
operate as expected. These same capabilities can also be used to
simulate systems that cannot yet be built. These systems
include some of the products and processes that will be enabled by
higher levels of technology. Indeed, in semiconductor technology, a
company must design chips before they can be made, or lose to its
The Schrodinger equation
Using computational simulation this way is like the earlier use of
telescopes to view planets that spacecraft could not yet reach. Like a
telescope, it does not provide a detailed picture — that is the
role of spacecraft. But like a telescope, it can identify potential
targets and help engineers plan how to reach them. And likewise, the
easiest targets to see are not necessarily the easiest targets to reach.


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