This sinister-looking gingerbread man is actually a cross section of some melted metal interconnects as seen with a focused ion beam. The focused ion beam is an instrument similar to the scanning electron microscope, except that it uses gallium ions to image a sample instead of electrons. The image came in sixth in the ”Art of Failure Analysis” competition at IEEE's 15th International Symposium on the Physical and Failure Analysis of Integrated Circuits, in Singapore. See the top 10 images at /jul08/6433.

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The Future of Deep Learning Is Photonic

Computing with light could slash the energy needs of neural networks

10 min read
Image of a computer rendering.

This computer rendering depicts the pattern on a photonic chip that the author and his colleagues have devised for performing neural-network calculations using light.

Alexander Sludds
DarkBlue1

Think of the many tasks to which computers are being applied that in the not-so-distant past required human intuition. Computers routinely identify objects in images, transcribe speech, translate between languages, diagnose medical conditions, play complex games, and drive cars.

The technique that has empowered these stunning developments is called deep learning, a term that refers to mathematical models known as artificial neural networks. Deep learning is a subfield of machine learning, a branch of computer science based on fitting complex models to data.

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