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Innovation

The impossible computer is theoretically possible

A computer that works faster than the speed of light has been proposed by Viennese physicists Karl Svozil and Volkmar Putz.
Written by Dana Blankenhorn, Inactive on

It can't be done, but it's theoretically possible.

A computer that works faster than the speed of light has been proposed by Viennese physicists Karl Svozil and Volkmar Putz.

They call the theoretical result a superluminal computer. The principle at use is called quantum entanglement, the linking of objects' quantum states so one can't be described without the other.

Leaving aside for a moment how you might build a superluminal computer or what one might do with it, nothing great happens unless it is first imagined.

Computers are a famous example.

Charles Babbage imagined what he called the "difference engine" in the late 1840s, leaving detailed drawings. The Science Museum of London built one for Babbage's bicentennial. It worked.

Imagination and engineering are the other vital ingredients in invention. William Gibson, who imagined much of our own age in novels like Neuromancer, teamed with Bruce Sterling in 1990 to create The Difference Engine (above), a novel set in an 1885 where Babbage's engine worked and transformed society.

In their novel (just $7.99 at Amazon) the plot is part Sherlock Holmes, and part Tom Standage's The Victorian Internet, in which ideas we know well -- tech-based gambling, fear of technology, and vast fortunes made possible by innovation -- turn out to not be so new after all.

Babbage imagined his invention nearly a hundred years before Eckert and Mauchly engineered their ENIAC, the first working computer. It was based on vacuum tubes rather than gears.

But long before that, businesses were making use of Hollerith card readers, which are more closely related to what Babbage imagined. Card readers built IBM decades before ENIAC, since they were one of the three pillars (adding machines and typewriters were the others) on which Thomas Watson Sr. built starting in 1914.

What's the point of all this history, pseudo-history science fiction and futurism? With a spring break weekend coming, I have just given you a reading list and, if you're young enough, a great task that can last your lifetime.

Build the superluminary computer.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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