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Good morning, Dave…

One of HAL 9000's "eyes", from 2001:  A Space Odyssey

One of HAL 9000’s “eyes”, from 2001: A Space Odyssey

Remember MU-TH-R 187?

Ok, how about HAL 9000?

We hear often about how the biggest obstacles to long-distance space travel are the propulsion systems and time required to reach other stars.

Want to know a secret? Even if we figure out how to get around those problems, another huge one remains.

The ship we build to do it would be so complex and sophisticated that no human crew would be able to operate it without help. So as space travel progresses, computer technology must progress with it.

And it is.

The computers we use today are all based on tiny switches in the processor being set to either “on” or “off”. However, a new type of computer, called a Quantum Computer, is being developed that will basically allow a computer to perform calculations as if each of those switches was both on and off at the same time.

If the computer you’re reading this on was the family car, a quantum computer would be a Formula 1 racecar.

Why is this so important?

Because as the distance from Earth increases, the ability to guide the flight from a ground-based mission control complex decreases. It won’t take long before the ship is so far away that any mission-critical decisions and/or changes will have to be made…sorry, there’s no other way to put this…on the fly.

Ok, so maybe that makes HAL a bad example, but his actions were due to conflicting instructions, not malevolence. Besides, he was a great chess player.

So what does this mean for you?

It means that as the computers get more advanced, new hardware and software will have to be designed to go along with it.

Maybe you’re the right person to do that.

Dream.

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