Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Atom by Atom Simulation of a Virus

My student Ken Johnson made the following interesting comment. It is especially relevant to those philosophers who like to casually write that in principle, everything can be computationally simulated based on the laws of physics. Notice that there is no reason to expect that Moore's law will hold up for more than a few decades:

"The article linked here refers to a study at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where researchers simulated a small virus on a large super-computer by simulating each of about a million atoms that composed the virtual virus and some surrounding virtual water. The simulation lasted about 50 nanoseconds in simulated time. (For those not metricly inclined, 1/20,000,000th of a second). If this could be scaled by about 20 orders of magnitude, then we could simulate a human atom by atom. And let's add about 10 more orders of magnitude so we can have a useful amount of time for a thought or two. If Moore's law holds up that will only be about 150 years of technology improvement -- I won't hold my breath waiting."

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