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Supercomputing Science

Brain-Inspired Computer Made From Duroquinone 77

hasu notes that scientists at the National Institute for Materials Science at Tsukuba in Japan have created a device, consisting of 17 duroquinone molecules on a gold surface, that can in theory encode 4.3 billion outcomes. The "device" does not constitute a practical computer, since it requires both a scanning tunneling microscope and operation near absolute zero. A single duroquinone is surrounded by sixteen others, and weak chemical bonds allow a pulse to the central molecule to shift all seventeen molecules in a variety of ways. Each duroquinone has four different "settings," so a single pulse can have 4^16 possible outcomes. As a demonstration the researchers docked 8 other nano-devices to their 17-molecule computer. It is unclear how well they have characterized the inputs that result in 4.3 billion different outputs. They are working on a 3D design that would have 1,024 duroquinone molecules surrounding a central one.
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Brain-Inspired Computer Made From Duroquinone

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  • Could someone tell me what they mean by "operation near absolute zero."?
    • by jtev ( 133871 ) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @05:00PM (#22722006) Journal
      Well, Absolute Zero is a temperature that has been extrapolated from the ideal gas law. It is the temperature at which all kinetic energy in the molecules of a substance reaches 0. For more information on Absolute Zero, and teperature scales based on it take a look at this wikipedia page [] and please do not expect the rest of us to do you thinking for you in the future.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        Yes, that is what "absolute zero" means. "Near absolute zero" means the temperature at which the ambient energy within the molecules is less than what would be required to force the logical gates into a non-random state. The paper will certainly elaborate on their exact methodology, but I will hazard an uneducated guess. It probably means operating in a partial vacuum or inert atmosphere and the plate was probably immersed or plumbed in Liquid Helium (boiling point 3.2-4.2 Kelvin depending on the isotope
        • The paper is quite strange, it reads like someone very skilled in physics and chemistry trying (and failing a little) to explain basic computational theory. Their results are really interesting, and this does look like a leap forward, but not the one being reported. The authors don't understand SIMD processing and keep claiming that their advance is the ability to control the 16 molecules in parallel. But the computational model applies the same state change to each of the 16 molecules (which are esssential
          • Our firewall was blocking the paper, but I'll definitely take a look. I'm signed up for Cryonics so I have a huge vested interest in working nanotech.

          • What they've built is strange - it's not quite a memory and not quite a computer.

            It sounds a lot like a logical gate array to me. (In function, that is.)

            Still, the physical size of it is very impressive.

      • by rbanffy ( 584143 )
        I do a lot of thinking for others. People call it consulting.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      Could someone tell me what they mean by "operation near absolute zero."?

      It means bring your coat []...
    • by stuporglue ( 1167677 ) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @05:01PM (#22722016) Homepage
      It will only work when run in a super cold freezer or, possibly, in Canada.

      Really cold : []
    • by vecctor ( 935163 )
      The computer has to be run at very low temperatures. []

      That quantum computer that made news a while ago was the same way.
    • by Shagg ( 99693 )
      They mean it needs to be at a temperature close to -460F. In other words... it'll be way too expensive to turn the AC in your house down that far.
  • But... (Score:4, Funny)

    by BrunoBigfoot ( 996441 ) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @04:57PM (#22721968)
    will it run Linux?
    • If you mean KDE with shinyness, heck no. Command line, maybe.
      • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        If you mean KDE with shinyness, heck no.
        Command line, maybe.
        I'd go with IceWM, considering the temperature requirements.
    • Or, Bock's Sprain? Or, was that "Spock's Brain"?

      " The machine is made from 17 molecules of the chemical duroquinone. Each one is known as a "logic device".

      They each resemble a ring with four protruding spokes that can be independently rotated to represent four different states."

      Would they be: Liquid, Gas, Solid, Kinetic/Memetic or Magnetic/Frenetic?

      And, if you built one of these for Frankenstein, and it crashed from over-guttural grunting, would it be Blankenstein?

      Can they be used to create drones, or upgra
      • by JLF65 ( 888379 )
        They clearly mean four different logical states as they call the molecules logical devices.
        • Obviously I was crafting puns on Star Trek history:

          Kirk (toward Spock): YOU are ILLOGICAL
          Boma (referring to Spock): I'm sick and TIRED of taking orders from this MACHINE!
        • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

          Education actually
          destroys the analytial Brain,
          leaving only a single brain
          perspective android servility.
          Educators who suppress the
          Harmonic Time Cube [] 4 Day
          4 corner Earth simultaneous
          rotation should be ki...., for
          they threaten all humanity.
    • by ady1 ( 873490 )
      Given TFA shows it to be more like a nanobot than a computer.
    • will it run Linux?

      question is, will it create linux?
  • by CrazyJim1 ( 809850 ) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @05:01PM (#22722012) Journal
    Doesn't sound like impressive computing. But hey, anyone doing research is at least doing something with their time.
    • by MozeeToby ( 1163751 ) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @05:13PM (#22722146)
      This is their wimpy 16 part prototype. Eventually, they hope to control 1024 parts, allowing them to store 4^1024 bits of data with a single pulse... in a single molecule.
    • by davidsyes ( 765062 ) * on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @05:23PM (#22722238) Homepage Journal
      It's EXpressive: Mathematical AND artistic.

      But, if they use it in bugs, and they abandon their masters, it will give a new meaning to "buggin out". If they emerge from a wig-wearing woman, then we literally have "wiggin out".

      But, as for expressionism.... do you want IMpressionism?
    • by dissy ( 172727 )

      So it can store an integer up to 4.3 billion?
      Doesn't sound like impressive computing.

      How large of an integer have -you- stored in only 1 atom today? ;}

      Seriously though, its not the amount or size of data here thats the break through, its the method they are using to store it, which actually is quite impressive.

      Imagine when they get this ramped up to a thousand, or ten thousand atoms, which will still be invisible to the naked eye, and store many integers up to mind boggling values.

      I don't foresee this ramping up hard drive storage in the next hundred years, but there are still plenty of us

    • Doesn't sound like impressive computing

      Well, look at it this way. The serial bus on your computer can transmit either a 0 or a 1 followed by more of the same so it takes N transmissions to transmit N bits. However, if you can transmit any number between 0 and 4^16-1 then you can transmit 32 bits in one shot, and N bits in N/32 shots. Now, how many shots per second can be made depends on how fast the encoding can occur after a lasering. At the molecular size, it could be fast, but near absolute zero maybe it
  • Nano (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Dr. Eggman ( 932300 ) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @05:02PM (#22722028)
    Nanotechnology? That's so early 2000's, we're onto picotechnology now!

    Seriously, though, this is incredibly small! The molecular computation machiniery necessary to direct our nanomachines are going to be far more interesting, challenging, and incredible than the nanomachines themselves.
    • Oops, I misread the article. The molecule is two billionths of a metre, which is 2 nanometers. I thought the nano-machines docking with the molecule were that size. Still! That's, what, 200 picometeres, so its just really large picotechnology!
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Ardeaem ( 625311 )

      Nanotechnology? That's so early 2000's, we're onto picotechnology now!
      Only lamers use picotechnology. I prefer emacstechnology myself.
  • Video and model (Score:5, Informative)

    by whitehatlurker ( 867714 ) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @05:04PM (#22722064) Journal
    This is a bit more graphical than TFA: []
  • by Anonymous Coward

    The "device" does not constitute a practical computer, since it requires both a scanning tunneling microscope and operation near absolute zero.
    I'm failing to see how that's practical. Surely a mother-in-law's nagging works as the microscope, and the region of her body associated with a heart in most people would suffice for the temperature.
  • It can help keep my beer cold. Very cold.
  • by Kaz Kylheku ( 1484 ) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @05:26PM (#22722266) Homepage
    That's like, 2^32.

    Is this really a computer? Or 32 bits worth of really impractical memory? :)
    • by Toonol ( 1057698 ) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @05:42PM (#22722414)
      Exactly right. Each of the sixteen molecules plays the role of two bits. They've made four bytes of ram.

      It's good that they're researching this; maybe someday it'll lead to faster, more compact storage. But when they release statements about how they can store "4.3 billion different states", they seem to be trying to market themselves. You can do the same with 32 pennies.
    • by JLF65 ( 888379 ) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @05:44PM (#22722434)

      You noticed that as well. I replied as much to a post above. Scientists have ways of making their "discoveries" seem much more impressive than they really are. It helps keep the grant money coming in. After all, which sounds more impressive?

      "I've made a 32 bit register that requires a room-size microscope and refrigerator to operate."

      "I've made a molecular 'brain' that holds over FOUR BILLION states!"
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by eggfoolr ( 999317 )
      Imagine how long the primary elections would take with that many States!

      Hilary might just have a chance.
    • Well... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by jd ( 1658 ) <> on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @06:19PM (#22722772) Homepage Journal
      The world's first stored-program computer only stored 32 words, where one word was 40 bits in length, making this 1/40th of the capacity of Alan Turing's "Baby" (aka Manchester Mk. 1) computer. Seriously, though, this is impressive in the sense that they got the thing to work at all. Storing and recovering data from a device this small is non-trivial, especially if they've got the read to be non-destructive. At this scale, the impact of carrying out the observation is non-trivial. If they need to cool to near absolute zero, it's obviously delicate enough that they need to damp down everything to keep the system working. But precisely because almost anything can be kept constant at that temperature, I'd consider this "cheating" a little. You could probably store and recover data on almost any sufficiently uniform structure if nothing is moving.
  • I'm trying to understand how something like this could be used to implement a turing-complete device, and I'm not seeing it. The examples given in the article make it sound more like a serial to parallel converter, not a computer.
    • by pavon ( 30274 )
      Oops, I lost some of my post. Obviously, this is similar to a neuron, however only if the outputs of one device can be fed into the inputs of another, which doesn't appear to be the case since the outputs only have 4 states each, and the input has 4^16 possibilities. If they also had the opposite of this device which took multiple inputs and created an output, then they could chain them together in a neural-net configuration.
  • by Quiet_Desperation ( 858215 ) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @06:00PM (#22722616)
    I heard on the first test it rolled a 20.
  • I think they mean inspired BY the brain, not inspired to work AS the brain. Unless of course, you're playing twister.
  • ...and in further news, this technology has been partnered with substantial funding and research by the Microsoft corporation to develop the smallest 'blue-screen-of-death' ever. Bringing the term 'brain-freeze' a whole new meaning.
  • by ruin20 ( 1242396 )
    Depending on the nature of the weak chemical bond and how the 16 molecules respond the slight charge, you might actually see different states for different charges which leads to input output relationship. It sounds like when you rotate one of the molecules, the others change appropriately. It's possible then that you could structure the molecules in such a way that you could form logic gates where you'd set two of them and a chain would produce a series of logical operators, however it also seems to functi
  • This is not a computer, this is 4 bytes of memory. 4^16 is the same as 2^32.
  • Of all the stories on Google News about this event, Slashdot's summary is the only one mentioning this molecular computer having to run near absolute zero. In fact, other articles [] mention this device being made near absolute zero, but not requiring cold for operation.

    So I did a little test. I went to Google news and searched for "computer duroquinone []".
    Then I searched for "
  • dude. why don't they just take a brain from one of those people who donates their body to science (after the person passes away, of course), and hook it up to a bunch of connectors and whatnot that would allow it to interface to a regular computer system! then you could have a network of brains in jars figuring stuff out, as opposed to server rooms full of hot electronic computers doing their whole number crunching thing.

Thus spake the master programmer: "When a program is being tested, it is too late to make design changes." -- Geoffrey James, "The Tao of Programming"