Transistors

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This week’s Economist carries an interesting piece about transistor’s miniaturisation and how it starts breaking down past the 5nm barrier (i.e. when the transistors are this given width apart and about the same size).

At such scale, electrons start leaking from the source to the drain without having even been « through » the channel. This has been theorized and documented for almost a century by the titans of quantum physics, even before transistors existed, and is called the « tunnel effect ».

And one starts thinking how difficult it must be to define «Time» when looking so closely at something, in particular when an electron can be here and there without visiting the interim positions. How long does it take it to move ? The time we waited before measuring change ? no time at all ?

The other extreme is also interesting and no less puzzling : time stops at the speed of light. I am not pretending to even start to comprehend what it means, but I’d venture that physics makes the point rather clearly that however we look at it, Time is nothing but a cage in which we « exist ».

Let me add that our tricks for evading the cage haven’t changed much since we started recording our lives on caves’ walls. They are crude and consist in either looking very closely at stuff with the hope that nothing would move – and that we could absorb ourselves in such immobility – or moving as fast as possible, doing as many things as possible so that Time would stop with the clutter.

Image credit : Nicolas Monterrat

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