Cafe season caps off with computer talk

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By Carol A. Clark

In its search for food, a slime mold performs a basic computation. It finds the shortest path – and its process is essentially not that different from what a computer does as it finds the shortest path in a labrinth.

At the latest Café Scientifique talk for teens, held Thursday evening at the Bradbury Science Museum, Computer expert Christof Teuscher of Los Alamos National Laboratory spoke about what computers are – and might be – capable of.

“Half a century ago, computers were terribly heavy, noisy, slow, and unreliable,” Teuscher said. “What will computers look like in 20 years? How and where will they be used? Will computers be implanted in your body? Will computers allow you to expand your brain power?”

In his talk, “Computers As We Don’t Know Them,” Teuscher presented images ranging from his old bulky Commodore C64 computer to a Radio-frequency identification (RFID) tag measuring the size of a fingertip, which both contain the same amount of memory. RFID tags can actually read up to 33 feet away, he said.

Teuscher described what computers are made of, including the motherboard, main processor, silicon chip and transistor, explaining that the transistor is the switch that controls and amplifies the “current” in the computer.

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