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Lecture 4

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Natural Science
NATS 1700
Valeri Michkine

LECTURE 4 PART I - GETTING SOME TERMS STRAIGHT Having attempted to clarify the meaning of "technology" for the purpose of this course and keeping my definition in the back of your mind throughout these lectures, the next matter that must be attended to is reconcile it with another term which is often used to describe twenty first century technology. The term is "new technology" and, suffice it to say, there is no real consensus among people as to its meaning. Some suggest that it applies only to computing technology. Others extend its meaning to include all forms of technology derived from the microchip or integrated circuit. Then there are those who equate "new technology" with something called the "information highway" or "information superhighway", both of which, by implication, refer to the Internet in one form or another. Finally, there are some who suggest that "new technology" is merely something called "Information Technology". So the question is which of the foregoing definitions, if any is equatable with the term "New technology"? In other circumstances, I might review the spectrum of differing definitions or explanation of this we call new technology. However, I do not intend to do this. My research into the subject leads me to conclude that the term "new technology", as you will see shortly, can be taken to mean the technology developed as a result of or in consequence of the transistor, the integrated circuit and, more particularly, the microchip, being powered by electricity and based in one manner or another on the principle of "memory", including the computer, and all other machines, appliances or derivative gadgets that function on the same basis as the computer. While the terms "information highway" and "information superhighway" do appear to be related to the Internet and the information that it is suggested or assumed that access to the Internet provides or may someday provide, one view is that the Internet is not new technology, rather it is derived from, is a by-product of or is an application of new technology. Yet an argument can be made that the Internet is a form of new technology by itself, notwithstanding that it requires new technology devices to work, given that it is designed to permit communication between individuals and groups and also fosters the flow of information. Finally, "Information Technology" can be considered to be a type or kind of software application or applications that arises or arise in consequence of new technology which is/are used to acquire and move information and for the most part, information technology appears to be used in business for the purpose of understanding business or business-related processes and bettering business performance. With the foregoing said, the only term which we have yet to provide a definition of is this thing we call a computer. In this regard, I think it is fair to say that everyone seems to have an idea of what a computer is. Yet if asked to define "computer", there is a momentary pause and then we seem to draw a blank, since none of us is certain how to define the very thing that, in our society, we now appear to take for granted. This stems from the fact that we often perceive a "computer" as machine capable of many things: calculations, word processing, image creation, virtual reality and more. Thus, as we delve into the science behind our new technology and the development of new technology itself, as I am want to do every now and again, I would invite you to consider whether we can arrive at a suitable definition of "computer" and if so, what that definition might be. At this point however, I think it is apparent that the definition of computer is not static. Rather and perhaps like the definition of technology, it is evolving based on our use of this marvelous device. END OF LECTURE SUMMARY ******************************************************************************************** LECTURE 4 - PART 2 THE SCIENCE." How does one attempt to explain the science behind our new technology to the layman? More importantly, how does one explain the science of 21st Century technology to students who, probably with a huge sigh of relief, left science behind them quite some time ago and promptly forgot it or, having no interest in science, intentionally avoided it in their early years of education? Unfortunately there is no perfect solution to this dilemma. The most I can offer you is that I will keep the science simple, in an effort to ensure not only that you can readily understand what it is that I am trying to convey, but also so that you can apply your understanding to other issues that will confront you later in this course. This said, it is incumbent upon me to explain the scientific basis for our new technology. In keeping with my explanation in the first part of this lecture, by new technology I mean televisions, stereos, computers, and other products that are a consequence of integrated circuits and microchip technologies such as cell phones, palm pilots, microwave ovens etc.... Perhaps the best way to do this is to have you look into the sky. When you do, you see the moon, the planets, the stars and, with a telescope, the galaxies. The area of physics that deals with the universe on a larger scale is called Cosmic Physics. In Cosmic Physics the rules appear to be defined and certain. What this means is that the Cosmos or Universe appears to conform to rules which are unchangeable and which apply everywhere throughout the universe. For example, a scientist by the name of Newton developed a theory which is now considered to be a law of the Universe. This theory is that: to "every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction." Like Newton, another scientist named Einstein determined that, in our universe, nothing can move faster than the speed of light. Thus, one could say that all things are certain in Cosmic Physics. Unfortunately, the area of science that deals with our new technology is not Cosmic Physics. The area of science that is the basis of our new technology is called Quantum Physics. Quantum Physics derives its name from a scientific theory postulated in 1925 called the theory of Quantum Mechanics, which deals with the study of things on the atomic and sub-atomic level. To better understand what this means, all you have to do is realize that all matter, (everything in our universe) is made up of a component part called an Atom. In turn, atoms are made up of smaller "subatomic" parts, most of which do not concern us. For your purposes, draw a small circle on a piece of paper. You can call this circle the nucleus of the atom. Then draw another larger circle around the smaller circle (around the nucleus). On this larger circle place an x in one location. The x represents something called an electron or a subatomic particle which "orbits" (moves around) the nucleus of the atom. If we tried to look inside an atom at the electron, we would need an extremely powerful microscope or other instrument. To see properly, we would have to light up the darkness inside the atom. However, light is energy and adding light would add energy to the atom and, more particularly, the electron. Once energy was added to the electron, the electron's movement and position would change. Thus, the very act of looking at the inside of an atom would change the thing we wanted to see. In a nutshell, this is Quantum Physics. Due to the fact that we cannot see the exact thing we are looking for inside the atom, all we can do is speculate as to where the electron will be at any given time. In science, this speculation is called determining probabilities, and so we say that, in Quantum Physics, things are not defined or certain, rather they are uncertain. Simply put, Quantum Physics is based on uncertainty and probability or the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. To understand uncertainty and probability a little more, I am going to have to put forward some real Science, although I shall try to keep it as respectfully simple as I can. Go back to your diagram of the atom. As you do so, consider that the electron or subatomic particle appears to have two natures: it is at once both a piece of matter called a "point particle", but it is accompanied by something less than a piece of matter, called a "wave". For our purposes consider that the point particle nature of an electron or subatomic particle makes it behave like something solid (think of it like a bullet). To understand the "wave" aspect of this subatomic particle, simply think of dropping something into a pool of water. At the point where the thing you have dropped hits the water, you see a wave which spreads from the point of impact out over the pool of water. This dual nature of the electron has been verified, time and time again, in the laboratory by something called the "double-slit experiment". Michio Kaku, a celebrated quantum physicist, in his book, "Hyperspace" describes the double-slit experiment as follows: " .... Let us say we fire a beam of electrons at a screen with two small slits [holes]. [The slits or holes are side by side by side]. Behind the screen, there is sensitive photographic paper. According to nineteenth-century classical physics, there should be two tiny spots burned into the photographic paper by the beam of electrons behind each hole. However, when the experiment is actually performed in the laboratory, we find an interference pattern (a series of bright and dark lines) which is commonly associated with wavelike, not particlelike behaviour....(The simplest way of creating an interference pattern is to take a quiet bath and then rhythmically splash waves on the water's surface. The spiderweblike pattern of waves criss-crossing the surface of the water is an interference pattern caused by the collision of many wave fronts). The pattern on the photographic sheet corresponds to a wave that has penetrated both holes simultaneously [i.e. at the same time] and then interfered with itself behind the screen. Since the interference pattern is created by th
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