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Programming Hardware

First Hot-Ice Computer Created 120

Posted by timothy
from the can-we-run-a-vm-on-it? dept.
KentuckyFC writes "Sodium acetate is the stuff inside chemical handwarmers that emits heat when it crystalizes after you press that little metal widget. That's why it is known as hot ice. Now a computer scientist in the UK has created a computer made entirely out of hot ice. The device processes information by exploiting the movement and interaction of wavefronts of crystallisation as they move through the material. The data input is in the form of metal wires that trigger crystal nucleation. The output works by reading off the direction of the moving wavefronts and the edges of the resulting crystals. The researcher has created AND and OR gates and solved a few problems such as finding the shortest path through mazes. There are even a few videos of the computer in action. The resulting computer is far from perfect, however. The data readout sometimes gives no solution and at other times gives circular results, the hot ice equivalent of a BSOD."
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First Hot-Ice Computer Created

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  • Yes but.... (Score:3, Funny)

    by binaryseraph (955557) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @05:34PM (#29291775)
    Will it help my aching hands from using the keyboard all day?
  • by Shikaku (1129753) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @05:35PM (#29291787)

    Vaporware?

    Full of hot air?

    Heating things up?

    Hot stuff?

    (I'm just throwing all the obvious puns, I'm done.

  • by AmigaHeretic (991368) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @05:36PM (#29291801) Journal
    ...does it run Linux?
  • by FlickieStrife (1304115) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @05:37PM (#29291811)
    So THAT's the problem with global warming...
  • Err, not a BSOD (Score:5, Interesting)

    by freeweed (309734) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @05:38PM (#29291837)

    The data readout sometimes gives no solution and at other times gives circular results, the hot ice equivalent of a BSOD.

    No, it's the hot ice equivalent of an infinite loop [wikipedia.org].

    Yeesh, get off my lawn.

    • Re:Err, not a BSOD (Score:5, Informative)

      by melstav (174456) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @06:51PM (#29292677)

      Actually, the analogy of a crash rather than an infinite loop is more appropriate.

      In an infinite loop, the same instructions are executed over and over.

      In the hot-ice computer, "execution" occurs when the stuff crystallizes. Once the hot-ice crystallizes at a given spot in the matrix, it cannot crystallize again until you reset the system. (by boiling it and melting all of the crystals)

      So, when the crystals form into a circular path in the system execution stops because there's no place for the reaction to spread before it stops.

      • A more accurate analogy that /. can understand:

        The car has flipped upside down in a crash but the wheels keep spinning in anycase not moving the car further forwards.
      • Once the hot-ice crystallizes at a given spot in the matrix, it cannot crystallize again until you reset the system. (by boiling it and melting all of the crystals)

        So, when the crystals form into a circular path in the system execution stops because there's no place for the reaction to spread before it stops.

        I can fix this for them. With a blow-torch.

  • by SuperBanana (662181) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @05:41PM (#29291885)
    http://uncomp.uwe.ac.uk.nyud.net/adamatzky/hot-ice/ [nyud.net]
    (Patience, it may take a bit for Coral to get the videos cached.)
  • "the hot ice equivalent of a BSOD"

    I always knew those programmers over at Microsoft were Stooges [wikipedia.org] but did you have to be so blunt?!

    Oh... that's not what you were trying to imply??

  • by Kratisto (1080113)
    Imagine a Beowulf Cluster of these things!
    • by joebok (457904)

      I think it would be called a Hot Glacier!

    • Imagine a Beowulf Cluster of these things!

      Hmm. Ice. Beowulf. I believe what you're referring to has been done, and given a name. Scandinavia.

  • by jemenake (595948) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @05:49PM (#29292007)

    The resulting computer is far from perfect, however. The data readout sometimes gives no solution...

    By "no solution", you mean that the readout is completely crystallized? Ba-dump-bump!

  • by Absolut187 (816431) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @05:58PM (#29292125) Homepage

    The first thing I thought when reading the summary is that this could be a description of life on another planet. Totally different information storage/replication from our own amino-acid based process.

    Every time I hear NASA scientists talking about how life requires water, I always shake my head.

    • Please correct me if I'm wrong, but while most people say "Life requires water" isnt it implied that "Life [as we know it] requires water"
      • by Beardo the Bearded (321478) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @06:13PM (#29292307)

        Yes, there's the implied "as we know it".

        For all we know, life could exist in a vaccuum, inside stars, as electricity, &etc. However, there's no evidence one way or another.

        What we do know is that of the forms of life we have found on our planet, they all require water. This will help us narrow down the places we want to look for life. We have a better chance at finding life if we focus on life forms that we'd have a remote chance of recognizing.

        • I agree completely, the statistical theory (out of the gazillion planets/solar systems, how is Earth the only one with life) is kind of a weak one, but it works. On the other hand, maybe we only have a remote chance of recognizing this because while the 'as we know it' is implies, it is still stuck in the back of our (NASA's) minds as a liquid (see what i did there?) requirement. We are creatures of habit, and generally afraid of change, so we stick with what makes us comfortable.
    • by DerekLyons (302214) <fairwater@gmail. c o m> on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @06:28PM (#29292463) Homepage

      Every time I hear NASA scientists talking about how life requires water, I always shake my head.

      And your qualificatione for shaking your head are what?
       
      Too many hours spent watching Star Trek and/or having an overactive imagination don't count.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        It's ice, Jim, but not as we know it.
      • by CarpetShark (865376) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @06:59PM (#29292773)

        And your qualificatione for shaking your head are what?

        Uhh... having a head, and being able to shake it?

      • by FreeUser (11483) on Thursday September 03, 2009 @06:39AM (#29297357)

        And your qualificatione for shaking your head are what?

        Presumably, having a mind capable of critical thought. Something you would be advised to learn. You are engaging in both the classic logical fallacy of "Appeal to Authority" (described here [nizkor.org]) and a tired ad homonem attack (you imply the grandparent poster watches star trek, which you implicitly indicate makes any thought they have on the subject meaningless. Both assumptions are themselves meaningless and irreleveant in the context of this discussion, but serve for you to classify the grandparent poster as a member of a group you view inherently as inferior to your rather arrogant self, which you then use as grounds to denigrate and dismiss their argument out of hand, without a shred of supporting logic to justify your stance).

        The fact of the matter is that no one, inside of NASA or out, is an "authority" on extra-terrestrial life. No one has ever, as far as we know, detected, much less observed extra-terrestrial life. Everything we know, or think we know, is based purely on supposition and guesswork. In the case of NASA (and the view your post suggests you hold), the supposition that life elsewhere in the universe must (or is even likely to) mimic life on Earth.

        Assuming extra-terrestrial life will be like Earth-based life is no more defensible, rational, or likely to be correct than assuming extra-terrestrial life will be nothing like Earth-based life. Assuming water must be intrinsic to life everywhere because we've observed it on one tiny, insignificant planet orbiting an unremarkable star in the outskirts of an equally unremarkable galaxy amounts to drawing statistical conclusions from a sample base with N=1, which is no better, or more intellectually rigorous, than just making random shit up.

        The grandparent is right to shake his or her head. Any critically-thinking person would be inclined to do the same when confronted with such broad assumptions about something no one knows anything about, built upon such flimsy evidence.

        All life in the universe may require water. Or not. Flip a coin. Based on the data we currently have, you are as likely to be right as any self-appointed "expert" in exobiology.

        (Hell, water-based life might be the exception, not the rule. Just because it's us doesn't make it average or representative of the rest of the cosmos. Until we actually find some extra-terrestrial life, we can't even begin to guess the truth on this one way or another).

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Grapes4Buddha (32825)
          Assuming that extraterrestrial life is water based does give us some clue what to look for, though. If someone comes up with a viable "alternative formulation" for life, presumably scientists would start looking for that as well.
        • Presumably, having a mind capable of critical thought.

          Being capable of critical thought is meaningless if one lacks the required basic knowledge of the field in question.

          The fact of the matter is that no one, inside of NASA or out, is an "authority" on extra-terrestrial life. Everything we know, or think we know, is based purely on supposition and guesswork.

          See, this is exactly what I mean about having the required basic knowledge - because it's plain that you don't.

          Life isn't magic.

          • by pwfffff (1517213)

            I think you'll find it difficult to locate a scientist who'd be willing to state that he has ruled out any possibility of self-reproducing patterns forming in the absence of water.

            You fault him for using 'maybe' and 'likely' when those are exactly the words we should be using. What kind of moron speaks in absolutes about things uncertain? Do you have an alien buddy you're not telling us about feeding you facts? Protip: scientists ARE just guessing. Always. ESPECIALLY about anything outside our solar system.

            • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

              by Absolut187 (816431)

              Maybe God told him.

              His level of certainty is most often associated with religion.

              • His level of certainty is most often associated with religion.

                You seem awfully sure about that ;)

            • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

              by DerekLyons (302214)

              What kind of moron speaks in absolutes about things uncertain?

              You'd have a point if things were that uncertain. Since they aren't, you're just another clueless fucking moron.

              scientists ARE just guessing. Always. ESPECIALLY about anything outside our solar system.

              Since the laws of physics, chemistry, etc... are invariant, regardless of location, you're just another fucking clueless moron.

              • by pwfffff (1517213)

                Way to completely fucking miss the point.

                You're a special kind of stupid.

              • Give up dude. You got pwned, now take it like a man and learn something instead of desperately trying to regain a shred of your pride.
        • ...You are engaging in both the classic logical fallacy of "Appeal to Authority" and... ad homonem attack
          ...
          Any critically-thinking person would be inclined to do the same when confronted with such broad assumptions

          No *true* [wikipedia.org] Scotsman would point out so many logical fallacies and then accidentally use one, would they?

          (Not that I disagree with anything you've said... that bit just gave me a chuckle.)

        • by profplump (309017)

          They're not assuming that *life* is earth-like, they're assuming that *chemistry* works in other places like it does in the bits of the universe we've observed so far -- water is fairly common as non-elemental substances goes, and liquid water very conducive to chemistry, even if that chemistry doesn't involve carbon-based lifeforms. As my chemistry prof used to say anytime someone asked for help -- "draw a beaker and put some water in it" -- because the reaction you're trying to model probably happens in l

    • Same here. They are not going to find life, even if it eats them alive! ;)

      "Oh, look, that sand cave entry ceiling, that never ever can be life, just... i guess... fell down from gravity. Oh, look at that sea of liquid there! Perhaps we will find water the..." *pssshhhhhhh* (scientist astronauts dissolve in digestive fluid, causing gas for the poor alien sand gulper.)

      It's as closed-minded as the stuff that they call "aliens" in movies. I bet out there in the real world, you'd be lucky to find something with

      • They sure do need water though. At least for metabolic processes. Some can survive without it, but only in a sort of crystallized form that just sits there inert until it's put back into water.

        • The train of thought that I tend to follow is that oxygen and water are prerequisites on Earth because both are fairly abundant - however, would life be able to utilise liquid hydrocarbons on Titan in the same way?
  • by Robotbeat (461248) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @06:20PM (#29292387) Journal

    You need to be able to make NAND or NOR gates to make a computer, so until they also produce a NOT gate, this won't be a full computer.

  • The data readout sometimes gives no solution and at other times gives circular results, the hot ice equivalent of a BSOD.

    What is a BSOD?

  • Plasmodium mould (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bencoder (1197139) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @06:40PM (#29292571)
    haha... I was about to say how it reminds me of a seminar I went to by a guy doing computing out of plasmodium mould growth so I looked it up, and it's the same guy. hilarious. This hot ice would have a similar growth pattern to the mould growth, but obviously a lot faster, and much more expensive.
    • by apoc.famine (621563) <apoc.famine@g[ ]l.com ['mai' in gap]> on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @09:06PM (#29294077) Homepage Journal

      Not much more expensive - it might even be cheaper. All you're seeing is a supersaturated liquid crystallize. If you are counting medium and research time, it's probably cheaper than preparing a nutrient bed and watching mold grow. Keep in mind biocontainment and disposal. For this one, add some water and some energy, and you can just repeat this again and again.
       
      Hell, it's probably easier to make a supersaturated solution than a proper mixture of mold spores and nutrients! For the solution, all you need is a starter crystal. The environment doesn't really matter.

    • by Wirr (157970)

      Sodium acetate is VERY cheap.

      And you can do it yourself !

      Go to the supermarket and by some washing soda (Na2CO3) and some acetic acid (vinegar).

      Mix it up in the right stocheometric amounts, cook it until dry, and hey presto there you are - Sodium acetate.

      The reaction is so simple you will get a nearly 100% yield.

      Then you bring some water to the boil, and add about the same weight of your sodium acetate to it.
      Let it cool down - that's you supersaturated solution.

      Now either put in a crystal of sodiumacetate a

  • by v1 (525388) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @06:49PM (#29292649) Homepage Journal

    to host 25 and 50mb movies on an "ac.uk" server that's about to get turned into paste...

  • This is only the tip of the iceberg... Does it burn dvds or freeze them?
  • Daniel Stern found it a long time ago: http://hotice.ytmnd.com/ [ytmnd.com]
  • Anybody wonder if Vanilla Ice has anything to do with this? Sorry, I had to.
  • by DigitalReverend (901909) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @07:55PM (#29293375)

    a beowulf cluster of these would be. I bet you could cook hot grits on it.

  • Ice Ice (Score:3, Interesting)

    by DynaSoar (714234) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @10:16PM (#29294603) Journal

    I'd like to see a water ice computer. Pipes (!) and containers of water, frozen into ice. Doped to carry current efficiently. Areas of interface doped differentially to create N and P equivalent materials for semiconductor creation. It's very doable. So why bother for any reason other than a neat hack? Because it wouldn't be an electronic computer. It would be protonic, because when a voltage is applied to water ice, it's protons, not electrons, that flow.

    • Protons moving? Do you have a citation for this? I don't see any reason for protons to move more freely in ice than anything else.
      • by DynaSoar (714234)

        Protons moving? Do you have a citation for this? I don't see any reason for protons to move more freely in ice than anything else.

        Yes, as a matter of fact I do have a citation. Somewhat.

        Harold J. Morowitz
        Bio with some pubs: http://cajal.unizar.es/eng/part/Morowitz.html [unizar.es]

        It was in the intro paragraph to one of his essays. That essay appeared in one of his collections books, I believe either "Pizza" or "Mayonaisse". Sorry to be so vague; my Morowitz collection and I are a thousand miles apart, or I'd not only look it up, I'd quote it. Some of his short works include references themselves, but I don't recall whether this one did. It was on

        • Hmm, it seems that this article might be somewhat relevant: <a href="http://ajpregu.physiology.org/cgi/content/abstract/235/3/R99">Proton semiconductors and energy transduction in biological systems</a>

          Unfortunately I don't have access to the journal in question - my university proxy doesn't even work :/

          I wonder if this means doping ice with extra protons for conductance or similar? It seems like it'd take a lot of energy to rip a proton off a H2O molecule stuck in the crystal matrix.
          • Just add some acid, right?

          • by DynaSoar (714234)

            Hmm, it seems that this article might be somewhat relevant: <a href="http://ajpregu.physiology.org/cgi/content/abstract/235/3/R99">Proton semiconductors and energy transduction in biological systems</a>

            Unfortunately I don't have access to the journal in question - my university proxy doesn't even work :/

            I wonder if this means doping ice with extra protons for conductance or similar? It seems like it'd take a lot of energy to rip a proton off a H2O molecule stuck in the crystal matrix.

            That be the dude, d00d. As far as the technical particulars, that's why it should be done. Once done, the details of operation can put examined to find out if and in what circumstances protonics might be superior to electronics. BTW, I'd assumed the doping thing, not having see the reference you found. Also an assumption is the possibility that electrons are bound stronger with each bond and have more of them affecting them, making the protons relatively easier to kick loose.

            I don't have access to the journ

  • ...hot ice?!

    For some reason, that just doesn't have the same effect. :P

  • ... but it overheats like a bitch.

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