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Noise is a chip designer's worst enemy. But handled properly it could become a powerful ally – and usher in the age of phonon computing

In 2001, Pat Gelsinger, then the chief technology officer of Intel, made a striking prediction about the future of microchips. If current design trends continue, he said, microchips will be running at 30 gigahertz by the end of the decade. However, he added, at this speed they will be generating more heat per cubic centimetre than a nuclear reactor.

... electrical noise isn't always bad news. We have known for decades that the presence of noise can improve the performance of certain switch-like systems. If the noise level is just below the threshold needed to flip the state of the system, even a tiny input voltage is enough to change the system's state. In effect, the noise increases the sensitivity of the switch - a phenomenon called stochastic resonance. When it occurs in neurons, for example, the process can sharpen our senses

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