Featured in Five is a monthly section where we pose five questions to a Computing Reviews featured reviewer. Here are the responses from our current featured reviewer, Alexander Tzanov (New York University).
Q: What is the most important thing that's happened in computing in the past 10 years?
A: The most important thing in computing happened in the late ‘90s when microprocessor technology hit the wall and the so-called Moore's law became (almost) obsolete. Heat generation and power consumption became a main limiting factor in microprocessor design and development. In 2005, Moore's law was declared dead by Gordon Moore himself. Since then, it has become evident that further increases in computational power can only happen if more--but less dense--computational units per dice are used. Instead of increasing the number of transistors and clock speed, more effective code is needed.
Multi-core chips were introduced and research in thread-level parallelism expanded. Nowadays, the performance of a modern computer does not depend only on clock speed, as it did in the past. Instead, other factors—embedded parallelism capabilities, load balancing, memory management, and communication cost—have become predominant in establishing computer performance.
Q: By the end of your career, where do you think computer science will have taken us? What are you working on that might contribute toward that?
A: We'll see the demise of current semiconductors. New materials capable of handling much higher clock speeds will be developed, along with a new type of gate element, which will replace the transistor. These new elements will explore microscopic and quantum effects and will be much more energy efficient. I am working in simulation and materials science, which aim to reveal new structures and materials with unique and desirable properties.
In addition, I think computing will have become trivial and computing as a service (cloud computing) will be embedded in everyday life, to the degree that it will become society’s main communication channel.
Q: Who is your favorite historical figure? Why?
A: Plato. All Western science was built on the principles established by Plato at his Athens academy, which was the first institution of higher learning in the West.
Q: If you weren't working in the computer science field, what would you be doing instead?
A: I would work in experimental solid-state physics, especially in the area of superconductivity.
Q: What is your favorite type of music?
A: Opera. Few things are more beautiful than the human voice, but classical opera can offer much more. As a sophisticated art form that originated in the 16th century, opera blends progressive ideas, humanity, and drama in the most harmonic way.