science education resource

How Small Will Computers Get?

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Just thirty years ago, a computer could take up an entire room. Now they sit on our desk tops comfortably, travel with us on airplanes and trains and the simplest versions can be held in the palm of our hands. Only in science fiction have computers gotten so small that they can be implanted under your skin or balance on the head of a pin. Until now...

A scientist at Harvard University using silicon wires just 10 atoms thick (so many atoms stretched across a ruler would measure one centimeter) has reduced the size of transistors (the way electricity travels in computer circuits) to the size of mere molecules. So far, these tiny circuits have only performed simple addition problems, but in the years to come, this technology is expected to develop a whole new level of computer uses. Consider a computer that can be injected into your bloodstream to perform medical task.

(For more information: see Discover Magazine - April, 2002).

How Small Will Computers Get?

Essential Questions

1. How small will computers get?


Disciplinary Core Ideas

ETS1.C: Optimizing the Design Solution: LINK
Although one design may not perform the best across all tests, identifying the characteristics of the design that performed the best in each test can provide useful information for the redesign process - that is, some of the characteristics may be incorporated into the new design. (secondary to MS-PS1-6)
• The iterative process of testing the most promising solutions and modifying what is proposed on the basis of the test results leads to greater refinement and ultimately to an optimal solution. (secondary to MS-PS1-6)


Science and Engineering Practices

Analyzing and Interpreting Data: Analyze and interpret data to determine similarities and differences in findings.

Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions: Apply scientific ideas to construct an explanation for real-world phenomena, examples, or events.

Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information: Gather, read, and synthesize information from multiple appropriate sources and assess the credibility, accuracy, and possible bias of each publication and methods used, and describe how they are supported or not supported by evidence.


Crosscutting Concepts

Patterns: Patterns can be used to identify cause and effect relationships

Cause and Effect: Phenomena may have more than one cause, and some cause and effect relationships in systems can only be described using probability.

Scale, Proportion, and Quantity
• Time, space, and energy phenomena can be observed at various scales using models to study systems that are too large or too small. (MS-PS1-1)

Energy and Matter
• Matter is conserved because atoms are conserved in physical and chemical processes. (MS-PS1-5)
• The transfer of energy can be tracked as energy flows through a designed or natural system. (MS-PS1-6)

Structure and Function
• Structures can be designed to serve particular functions by taking into account properties of different materials, and how materials can be shaped and used. (MS-PS1-3)

Connections to Engineering, Technology, and Applications of Science
Interdependence of Science, Engineering, and Technology
•  Engineering advances have led to important discoveries in virtually every field of science, and scientific discoveries have led to the development of entire industries and engineered systems. (MS-PS1-3)

Influence of Science, Engineering, and Technology on Society and the Natural World
•  The uses of technologies and any limitation on their use are driven by individual or societal needs, desires, and values; by the findings of scientific research; and by differences in such factors as climate, natural resources, and economic conditions. Thus technology use varies from region to region and over time. (MS-PS1-3)

Other questions that were generated in researching
this Scientific Phenomena?



Intergrate this Lesson with NGSS:


Using Discoveries and Inventions as Scientific Phenomena to Integrate with NGSS:

Scientific Phenomena can be used as a tool to anchor a science unit involving a series of lessons to engage in deeper science learning – or what is being called “Three Dimensional Learning”.

1) Describe the phenomena in a way that your students can understand and which sparks their imagination.

2) Create Essential Questions for them to answer to explain the phenomena.

3) Identify the NGSS Disciplinary Core Ideas which you are targeting.

4) Provide clear directions for a process they should use to try to answer the questions using the NGSS Science and Engineering Practices to frame as your guideline.

5) Name the Crosscutting Concepts that students should be aware of throughout the lesson.

6) Discuss the Connections to Nature of Science.

7) Make note of other questions generated in the process of exploring this Scientific Phenomena. has more than 2,000 illustrated animals. Read about them, color them, label them, learn to draw them.