These Bendy Plastic Chips Fit in Unusual Places

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Like anyone who designs computer chips for a living, James Myers is, at his core, a silicon guy. “Silicon is brilliant,” he says. Brilliant because it’s a natural semiconductor—able to both conduct electricity and act as an insulator, depending on the conditions—and because it can be engineered at small scale. Brilliant because it is the second-most-common element on Earth, probably clinging to the soles of your feet right now, and easily produced by heating sand. Those attributes have made it the bedrock of virtually every technology we use today. People like Myers, an engineer at the British semiconductor firm Arm, mostly spend their time thinking about how to pack more silicon into less space—an exponential march from thousands of transistors per chip in the 1970s to billions today. With Moore’s law, we are, as Myers puts it, “swimming in silicon.”

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