Kyoto laureates visit San Diego

Posted: March 19, 2014 at 11:54 am

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Three men received the Kyoto Prize in November, 2013. From left are Robert Dennard, Masatoshi Nei and Cecil Taylor.

From laptops to GPS trackers, Robert Dennards invention is everywhere these days.

While working at IBM in 1968 the electrical engineer invented dynamic random access memory, a better, simpler, way for computers to store the ever-growing flow of 1s and 0s that have gradually led to a global digital revolution. Dennard is one of three accomplished awardees who came to San Diego this week to participate in the 13th annual Kyoto Prize Symposium. The event brings last years Kyoto winners to local universities where each gives a talk about their career and major contributions to their field.

This year Dennard, who won in the advanced technology category, delivered his speech at San Diego State Universitys Montezuma Hall. He was followed by evolutionary biologist Masatoshi Nei who won in the basic sciences category and took the stage Tuesday afternoon at UC San Diego. A third winner in the arts and philosophy category, jazz musician and poet Cecil Taylor, is scheduled to deliver a presentation in the University of San Diegos Shiley Theatre Wednesday at 10:30 a.m.

Created in 1984 by philanthropist and entrepreneur Kazuo Inamori, founder of Kyocera Corporation, the prize recognizes the creativity of dedicated but unsung researchers and pioneers who have made extraordinary contributions to science, civilization and spirituality.

Nei is recognized for his theory of genetic distance, a way of comparing genes to determine when different species split off from a common genetic ancestor. Nei used this distance technique to discover evidence that humanity as we know it today originated on the African continent about 115,000 years ago.

Taylor is known for his pioneering work in free jazz an improvisational style that uses percussive piano keystrokes and less rigid chord structures and rhythms to take popular music in new directions.

Dennard is credited with bringing simplicity to computer memory. His elegant design allows to computers to store a single bit of information, an individual one or zero, with only a single transistor, compared to a total of six used

to store the that same bit by the state-of-the-art machines in use when he entered the field in the early 1960s.

This technique allowed much more information to be stored in a given physical space and at a much lower cost. Dennard also proposed computer design guidelines known as scaling theory that showed that transistors could be made ever smaller by shrinking their individual components, and the amount of voltage they use, by consistent amounts. That observation has been key in the massive increases in computer memory density that have delivered todays modern systems, some of which are small enough to fit inside a smartphone.

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Kyoto laureates visit San Diego

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March 19th, 2014 at 11:54 am