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Truth & Consequences

silicon photonics

Shedding Light on Silicon Photonics

By Ron Wilson

What’s at stake?
As new fabrication techniques and design tools emerge, the bandwidth, latency and energy-efficiency advantages of silicon photonics move closer to delivering data-driven applications and services. Researchers are pursuing multiple paths to deployment, with specific applications perhaps determining how best to harness light to connect chip components and computing platforms.

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land mines in Ukraine artificial ignorance and AI Putin

Putin’s Brainstorm: Artificial Ignorance

By David Benjamin

“Older types of land mines typically explode when victims accidentally step on them or disturb attached tripwires. But the POM-3’s seismic sensor picks up on approaching footsteps and can effectively distinguish between humans and animals…”

— John Ismay, New York Times, 6 April

It doesn’t take long for my friend Wilhelm “Bombs Away” Bienfang—the world’s foremost “idea man”—to latch onto an embryonic technology and turn it into a veritable goldmine.

Within hours of learning that Russian soldiers, fleeing the carnage they had wreaked in Ukraine, had left behind a garden of seismically activated land mines, Bienfang had a potentially lucrative product on his drawing board.

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FPGA primer

Just What is an FPGA, Anyway?

Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of stories examining AMD’s acquisition of Xilinx and what it means for the evolving FPGA market.

By Ron Wilson

What’s at stake?

Both Intel and AMD have invested heavily to own a leading FPGA company. Setting aside relatively small embedded-computing and communications/networking markets, these are essentially bets on the future of the FPGA as a key partner for the CPU chip in data center servers. But unless major challenges in accessibility to software programmers and in device management are overcome, the partnership may not happen.

To appreciate why AMD would be so interested in FPGA vendor Xilinx — or for that matter, what Intel saw years ago in Altera — it helps to have some idea of just what an FPGA is, and what role the devices play in today’s semiconductor industry. The answer rests in one simple idea, unfortunately obscured by a poor choice of acronym and a lot of technical complexity. Perhaps we can untangle things a bit.

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