The Power of Wikipedia – 1.21 GigaWatts

On Wed April 30th Hewlett Packard announced that they had fabricated a device previously only theorized. Known as a memristor, this is the 4th basic type of passive circuit element, joining its brethren the resistor, capacitor, and inductor. The device’s unique property of “memristance” is equal to the rate of chance of flux with respect to charge, hence it has been commonly compared to the mythical “flux capacitor”, popularized in the original Back to The Future movie. Now, in order for us to achieve time travel, someone simply needs to invent the Mr. Fusion Home Energy Reactor to generate the 1.21 GigaWatts needed to power the memristor. Anybody …. Anybody … Anybody …

The memristor is said to be absolutely unique because it is the only one of the basic circuit elements to exhibit the property of memory. According to UC Berkeley Professor Leon Chua, who first postulated the existence of the memristor in 1971, “the memristor is our salvation, because it works better and better as you make it smaller and smaller. The era of nanoscale electronics will be enabled by the memristor. This is not just an invention, it is a basic scientific discovery. It has always been there — we just had to face these nanoscale problems to realize its importance.”

The applications being described include ultra-dense (100Gbit) non-volatile memory, ultra-high-density crossbar switches, and brain-like neural networks. One comment on a blog site this week from a John Conner even said “This is the beginning of SkyNet. Soon the T101 model will be developed, based on this design.” And many new applications will emerge once that the technology achieves production quality.

In a word, Wow!

Personally, I’m not at all familiar with the science behind this discovery, so I decided to do some research of my own. Since this was such an important discovery, where would I go? Wikipedia, of course.

By the end of the next day after the discovery was announced, the Wikipedia article for Memristor has been updated 110 separate times by 53 different authors. Here is the article before the announcement, and here is the article at the end of the next day. This is the 1.21 GigaWatt power of Wikipedia .. harnessing the efforts of scores of volunteers worldwide.

To be fair, I decided to try to search for “memristor” in the other three online encyclopedias.

  • The time honored returned “sorry, we were unable to find results for your search”.
  • (aka Columbia Encyclopedia) returned a blank page except for Google Adsense ads for 3 art sites, including one for Dog Art (hmmmm)
  • Encarta returned “No results were found for your search in Encarta. Did you spell your search words correctly?”

Anybody …. Anybody … Anybody …

Like Ferris Bueller, I guess they were taking the day off.

harry the ASIC guy

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2 Responses to “The Power of Wikipedia – 1.21 GigaWatts”

  1. Konn Danley says:


    Thanks for the info on this. Brought to commercial viability, this changes the entire basis of the electronics world and is very, very exciting. The power reduction aspect of dynamic resistance is going to be paramount going into the nanotechnology realm. They say it gets better the smaller it gets. I hope to find out what sizes they are talking about and/or what kinds of limitations there may be with this new revolutionary technology.

    Thanks again for the info.


  2. harry says:

    This week HP came out with an update on the memristor work. They’ve been able to demonstrate how to control the memristor material and have better understanding of how it works and it’s device characteristics. When used for non-volatile memory elements, the devices achieve 50ns access time, which blows the doors off of Flash.

    They are shooting to be able to produce prototype RAMs for their crossbar architecture in 2009.

    For more info, check out the EE Times Article and Steve Leibson’s EDN Blog.

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