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Penn research helps lay out theory for metamaterials that act as an analog computer
Date:1/9/2014

rea Al of The University of Texas at Austin and Giuseppe Castaldi and Vincenzo Galdi of the University of Sannio in Italy.

It was published in the journal Science.

The researchers' theory has its roots in analog computing. The predecessors of modern computers were mechanical calculators, which used physical elements, ranging from sliding rulers to complex arrays of gears and drive shafts, to represent, store and manipulate numerical information. In the most complicated examples, a user might set the starting values to be computed on a wheel or dial, and then crank a handle a certain number of times. Intervening sets of gears transformed the starting values in a step-wise fashion until the results were produced. In the mid-20th century, electronic analog computers replaced the mechanical ones, with series of resistors, capacitors, inductors and amplifiers taking the place of gears and drive shafts. Starting values were represented by electric voltage and current, and the results could be read out from the changes in voltage and current after passing through these dedicated circuits.

Both mechanical and electronic analog computers were particularly suited to calculating large tables of information. Where the paper-and-pencil method would require tedious and repetitious steps performed on each of the table's elements, with each step prone to human error, analog computers could perform those steps in parallel, producing the results all at once.

The advent of the first all-purpose, digital computer Penn's ENIAC was revolutionary; abstracting the input data allowed digital computers to be multi-purposed. They could be reprogramed to perform multiple types of calculations, unlike their purpose-built analog predecessors. Though analog computers still had an advantage in not having to translate, quantize and digitize the information they were calculating, their mechanical and electronic makeup could not compete with the a
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Contact: Evan Lerner
elerner@upenn.edu
215-573-6604
University of Pennsylvania
Source:Eurekalert  

Page: 1 2 3 4 5

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