Daniel Lemire is a computer science professor at the University of Quebec (TELUQ) in Montreal. His research is focused on software performance and data engineering. He is a techno-optimist and a free-speech advocate.
Science and Technology links (May 22nd 2021)
Most computer chips today in flagship phones and computers use a process based on a 5 nm or larger resolution. Finer resolutions usually translate into lower energy usage and lower heat production. Given that many of our systems are limited by heat or power, finer resolutions lead to higher performance. The large Taiwanese chip maker (TSMC) announced a breakthrough that might allow much finer resolutions (down to 1 nm). IBM recently reported a similar but less impressive breakthrough. It is unclear whether the American giant, Intel, is keeping up.
Good science is reproducible. If other researchers follow whatever you describe in your research article, they should get the same results. That is, what you report should be an objective truth and not the side-effect of your beliefs or of plain luck. Unfornately, we rarely try to reproduce results. When we do, it is common to be unable to reproduce the results from a peer-reviewed research papers. The system is honor-based: we trust that people do their best to check their own results. What happens when mistakes happen? Over time, other researchers will find out. Unfortunately, reporting such failures is typically difficult. Nobody likes to make ennemies and the burden of the proof is always on you when you want to denounce other people’s research. It is so common that we have a name for the effect: the replication crisis. The reproduction crisis has attracted more and more attention because it is becoming an existential threat: if a system produces research that cannot be trusted, the whole institution might fall. We see the reproduction crisis in psychology, cancer research and machine learning. Researchers now report that unreproducible research can be cited 100 times more than reproducible research. It suggests that people who produce unreproducible research might have an advantage in their careers and that they might go up the ranks faster.