Why former Microsoft CTO Nathan Myhrvold is taking the highest-resolution snowflake photos ever

Yellowknife Flurry snowflake photography Nathan myrhvold

Former Microsoft CTO Nathan Myhrvold spent 18 months building a custom 100MP camera to take pictures of snowflakes. In this edition of TechFirst with John Koetsier we chat with him about how, which includes equipment from Japan and Canada and trips to Alaska and Yellowknife and Timmons, Ontario.

And — of course — why 🙂

Myhrvold also chats about what drives him to continue inventing and learning.

He’s a polymath, and while best known for being the CTO of Microsoft, he’s the founder of Intellectual Ventures, has more than 850 patents to his name, and has written 1000s of pages of recipes for his cookbook series … published peer-reviewed research on planetary science plus written about paleontology … climate science … and worked with Stephen Hawking on quantum theories of gravitation.

We also learn about Nathan Myhrvold’s latest project: a massive high-resolution picture of the Milky Way galaxy.

Scroll down for full audio, video, and a transcript of our conversation …

And … here’s the resulting story at Forbes …

Listen: Nathan Myhrvold’s 100 MP snowflake camera

 

Watch: Why former Microsoft Nathan Myhrvold is taking the world’s highest resolution snowflake pictures ever

Subscribe to my YouTube channel so you’ll get notified when I go live with future guests, or see the videos later.

Read: High-res snowflakes, Nathan Myhrvold, and beyond

John Koetsier: Would you spend 18 months building a custom 100 megapixel camera to take pictures of snowflakes? Welcome to TechFirst with John Koetsier.

“Snowflake” might be an insult in 2020, but snowflakes are widely recognized to be objects of rare and fleeting beauty — fleeting, especially. Capturing that beauty is surprisingly hard, but one of former Microsoft CTO Nathan Myhrvold’s passions is photographing amazing snowflakes. And he succeeded in making the highest-resolution snowflake photos ever.

To learn how … and find out why … we’re chatting with Nathan Myhrvold. Welcome, Nathan! 

Nathan Myhrvold: Well, thank you. 

John Koetsier: Hey, pleasure to have you here. Let’s start right at the top with the most obvious question: how did snowflakes become a passion? 

Nathan Myhrvold: Well, when I was a kid, I saw pictures of snowflakes. And of course, around the holidays time we see them and that motif everywhere, these beautiful faceted crystals, almost like gems but more fragile than gems. And as I got older, I sort of learned why they look that way.

I also became a photographer and I started taking pictures of food and of landscapes and so forth. And snowflakes are something that we don’t think of as food, yet most of us in North America anyway, spend our whole summer drinking melted snowflakes, right?

Without snowflakes, we would have no water. It is the form of snow that allows us to meter it out over a period of many months.

And around now, the new snows come, but we’ll have enough water hopefully then for the next year. So it’s a super important thing to humans, but … snowflakes are little. You know, they’re between a millimeter to maybe a giant one is 10 millimeters across, but that’s very rare. And sometimes they’ll stick together so that you get a clump that’s bigger, but … and they don’t last very long at all. 

John Koetsier: No.

Nathan Myhrvold: And yet there’s billions of them — billions and billions and billions of them falling, probably right now across the Northern part of the continent. 

John Koetsier: Yes.

Nathan Myhrvold

Former Microsoft CTO Nathan Myhrvold

Nathan Myhrvold: So, now all of — each of these factors makes it really hard to photograph the things. Because they’re small, you need to use a microscope effectively. And because they’re very fragile, you can’t take the snowflake from outside and bring it inside. No-no-no-no-no, what you’ll have is a puddle by the time it gets in. In fact, one of the most interesting things when you start to work with snowflakes the way I do, is you watch them change before your eyes, and they can both grow and shrink. 

John Koetsier: Wow. 

Nathan Myhrvold: Because mostly what snowflakes are, is snowflakes are a crystal of water ice that came directly from a vapor onto the flake. So it’s not … if you think of a sugar crystal, for example, or some ice crystals will grow on water, right? On the surface of a pond, for example.

Well, here it’s quite different.

The snowflake is trying to grow and it’s in an area around it where there are molecules and water vapor bouncing around, and it’s because it’s bouncing around on a gas that the molecules can be kind of picky and only go to the spot where it seems best for them.

Which has to do with the crystal symmetries in water, and that’s what makes them beautiful. If you just freeze water, you can get some crystals, but they don’t look like snowflakes. 

John Koetsier: It’s amazing. It really is amazing. I showed some of the photos and I’ll show them again a little later. And I want to talk about the pictures that you took, and why you selected them and everything like that, and also the process that you went through to be able to do this. Maybe we’ll start there.

So you’re best known for being the CTO of Microsoft, but you did multiple things before that, and you’ve done a lot after Microsoft — a huge amount, actually. You’re the founder of Intellectual Ventures. You have more than 850 patents to your name.

What did you have to invent for this project? I mean, you said you can’t take it inside. You probably can’t really take it anywhere, I mean you can’t touch the thing, right?

Nathan Myhrvold: That’s right. 

John Koetsier: What did you have to invent for this project? 

Nathan Myhrvold: Well, first I had to meet someone who knew about this. And it turns out there’s only a few people in the world of snowflakes who really have learned all of what it takes to do this. In the 19th century, it was a self-taught farmer in Vermont and he became known as “Snowflake” Bentley.

John Koetsier: That’s wonderful. 

Nathan Myhrvold: And more recently, there’s a physics professor at Caltech named Ken Libbrecht, and Ken built his own microscope to go photograph snowflakes. Snowflake Bentley had an awesome setup where his film and other stuff was inside of his house, but then like the microscopes were projected out through the wall.

That way the snowflakes could remain outside.

Well I met Ken, and Ken was very helpful in describing how he had built a snowflake microscope. Now I figured, hey, I’m trying to do something better than that because — at least in resolution — ’cause Ken had done his maybe, initially 15 or 20 years ago. Digital cameras have improved resolution. What would it take to make the highest resolution snowflake photos so I could make really big prints of them? Well, it turns out there’s a whole series of things.

I had to build my own microscope.

For the frame of the microscope, you want something very, very stiff because you’re trying to hold it very still, but you also don’t want to use metal. And the reason is that metal expands and contracts. 

And the longer a piece of metal you have in building your microscope — a lot of microscopes will have a main post that they hang everything off of — well, that post is going to get larger or smaller by millionths of a meter, which is called a micron. And a micron, it turns out, is a lot. You can’t afford that. So the frame of my microscope is built out of carbon fiber. 

John Koetsier: Interesting. 

Nathan Myhrvold: And I designed it, I built it. It’s really messy working with all the epoxy but … ’cause you’ve got to make sure you don’t remain permanently stuck there. 

Okay, but then, snowflakes can be relatively deep. A flattish snowflake could be as much as 10 microns deep. 

And that is deep enough that when you’re taking pictures at high resolution, it isn’t all in focus. We’ve all seen photos where, you know, something in the foreground here is in focus and the rest isn’t. Well, that happens here. So, I had been working for a few years, developing a system for taking photographs that uses a computer controlled set of motors to move the camera very slightly in between each picture. 

And it typically will move it by as little as a micron, one micron. Now, a human hair is typically 80-100 microns. 

John Koetsier: That is incredibly precise, moving by one micron.

Nathan Myhrvold: Yes. Now of course, this, that thing has got metal in it. You can’t avoid the metal, but then you have this problem. How do you attach the metal frame of that precision stage to the carbon fiber, finding then a way to do that. There’s a company that has built these stages for me for use in a laboratory for a number of years, and it’s a company in the Vancouver area.

And so, we called him up and we said, ‘So what’s the coldest your stage could be?’ And, well, he says, ‘Well, I don’t know. Would it be okay if we just tested it in our cold freezer?’ And we said, ‘Sure, that’ll be great.’ So they did. And it turns out their stage is good enough to maintain that one micron accuracy across a wide temperature range.

John Koetsier: Amazing. Amazing. 

Nathan Myhrvold: Well then … each step then brings you to another thing, which is, how do you pick these things up? 

John Koetsier: Yeah, that was my question. I’ve been thinking this whole time. How do you capture the snowflake? Where do you go out and get it? Do you catch it on a piece of paper? What do you do? 

Nathan Myhrvold: Oh, I have some pieces of black foam core board, and you either hold them out or you prop some of them out wherever you are, and you try to get snowflakes to land on them. Now if there’s wind, the problem is the snowflake can pick back up.

So I’ve got a velvet-covered one I’ll use for wind, and that will — that’s stickier, effectively, to the snowflakes. But then you have to pick it up from there, and to do that I use a tiny, tiny single brush. So this is a brush, like a watercolor painter would use. But it’s size triple zero, which is really little, and you have to get it cold upfront so it’s at ambient temperature. And it turns out, whenever it’s snowing, it’s cold. That’s pretty obvious. It’s also usually pretty dry out, and so it’s easy to get a static charge on that brush. 

And if I have to, I’ve got a little cloth I can rub. But usually don’t have to, because there’s so much static just out there in the air, that it picks it up. So you touch the snowflake. And they’re in some camping equipment. The kind I get comes from cooling CPU chips. 

John Koetsier: Nice. Makes sense. 

Nathan Myhrvold:  Well then you have to cool those, because what they do is they pump heat across, but then you have to let the heat out.

So I’ve got a set of — a bunch of equipment that is from water cooling gaming PCs.

Really intense gamers run their PCs super hot so that they’re getting the maximum performance, and to keep them from melting they have to have these water cooling systems. So I’ve got one of those, but of course you can’t put water in it. So like initially I thought, well, this will be easy. I’ll go down to the auto supply store—

John Koetsier: Antifreeze.

Nathan Myhrvold: And I’ll buy antifreeze, right? And it’ll say, it says rated to minus 100 F, right? 

John Koetsier: Yes. 

Nathan Myhrvold: No. It’s rated at 100 F in an engine where it just has to stay liquid enough that the engine starts, then the engine heats it up.

John Koetsier: Ohhhhh. 

Nathan Myhrvold: So it turns out it winds up like jello, at even minus 20. 

John Koetsier: Wow. 

Nathan Myhrvold: So there’s a special antifreeze solution that you have to use. So we use that. Well, all of that, as that piece of copper cools the area up near the top of my microscope stage, I still needed something clear to shoot through to see the microscope — or to see the snowflake. So I use artificial sapphire. 

John Koetsier: Wow. 

Nathan Myhrvold: Artificial sapphire is used in —

John Koetsier: Phone screens, right?

Nathan Myhrvold:  It’s used in the crystals of high-end watches.

John Koetsier: Okay. 

Nathan Myhrvold: ‘Cause it won’t scratch. So it’s super hard.

But it also has almost eight times the thermal conductivity of glass. So I can get my sapphire to ambient temperature, or even colder than ambient temperature, before my snowflake gets there. So it doesn’t melt upon contact, because … that’s no fun. 

John Koetsier: Yes. Yes. That destroys the whole purpose right there. But you also have to image it and you need the right lighting, correct? And you had to invent a new type of lighting, really, because I mean, light can impart heat, right? And when you’re dealing with such delicate structures that you already mentioned that they can grow, they can shrink, they can sublimate as well as melt.

Nathan Myhrvold: Yeah.

John Koetsier: And so what did you have to do for lighting? I mean, what did you first try and then how’d you find out it didn’t work? 

Nathan Myhrvold: We tried using LED lighting, continuous LED lighting, and that just didn’t work. It was putting too much energy on the snowflake, and that meant it either melted or sublimated way faster than it should. The other problem is when you use continuous light, then you need to use the shutter in your camera. Well, but the problem with having the shutter is then that makes things shake, and that’s not a good thing.

John Koetsier: Yes. When you’re dealing with microns of space, I could see that. Yes.

Nathan Myhrvold: So I found a company in Japan that made special LED lights that were used for [something called] ‘machine vision’ in, mostly in quality control. So you have some conveyor belt coming by and you’ve got parts on it, and you want to say is this part malformed or it’s some other problem. And every automated factory has got some version of this. Well for the ones that run really fast, they have this problem that they were getting blurry pictures.

John Koetsier: Sure.

Nathan Myhrvold: So this company in Japan developed an LED lighting system that is pulsed. And it’s pulsed verrrry short pulses, so we can make a pulse that is a microsecond, a millionth of a second. 

John Koetsier: Wow. 

Nathan Myhrvold: Now, that’s really great for two perspectives. One is, in that millionth of a second we’re not getting a lot of heat transfer, which is really good. And, over a period of time there’s multiple pulses, but the pulses are spaced out enough that the average amount of power is low. 

John Koetsier: Good. 

Nathan Myhrvold: The other thing that’s great is that it allows us to freeze motion. So if there was any vibration in the system, this tends to remove it. Now this company was going back and forth with me and they shipped us a bunch of lights and controllers, and I had to — I was a customer that required a lot of technical things from them, and they finally said, ‘Well, what industry are you in?!’ And I was like well… [laughter]

John Koetsier: Not quite in an industry here. At least … not yet. 

Nathan Myhrvold: So they were pretty surprised that I had found using their lights for this purpose. So then, this whole outfit that I’m describing has to be outside. And so part of snowflake photography is you try to find a hotel or a rental cottage or something else that has a porch. This is really important. Now sometimes I’ve been in high-rise hotels that have a little balcony. A lot of them have like a balcony that’s sort of this pathetic balcony that it’s— 

John Koetsier: It’s not really a balcony. 

Nathan Myhrvold: Normally you couldn’t like sit out there and relax, because it’s so damn small, but hey, that’s enough. And then you have to find the right place, because snowflakes are very temperature sensitive.

This kind of snowflake that’s up here is — well not so much this type, but the previous type is called a stellated dendrite. So it’s star-shaped and it is, by ‘dendritic’ it means that each one of the initial arms keeps growing, but then it nucleates other little arms that go off, and other arms that go off those arms, and so on. Now all of that happens because water wants to form hexagonal crystals. 

And in this environment where snowflakes form, you get some event that starts a little plate forming, and then all of these other water molecules come and they want to join, but they only want to join where they make this hexagonal pattern. Now, the reason that they’re approximately symmetric is that approximately the same things are happening on each side. 

But it’s not always fully symmetric. And when it’s not fully symmetric, you get something that’s a little bit different on one side or another. 

John Koetsier: Yes. 

Nathan Myhrvold: Now, this really nice stellated dendrite process really only happens when it’s about -15 C or -5 Fahrenheit. 

John Koetsier: Okay. 

Nathan Myhrvold: And it turns out that’s really cold. You know, I naively thought, okay, I built this thing and now I’ll go stay at ski resorts and I just won’t go skiing. I’ll just open up the balcony and grab some snowflakes.

But most ski resorts are in places that are too warm — believe it or not — particularly where they put the accommodations is too warm. You know, maybe up at the very top of the hill when the wind is blowing, it’s colder. So that means you have to go and mostly I’ve taken snowflake pictures in Canada or Alaska. 

John Koetsier: Yeah. Yeah. I saw Northwest Territories and Alaska as well.

Nathan Myhrvold: Yeah, it’s … well, each place has its own character, as it turns out. There’s a town called Timmins, Ontario that I go to. And Timmins is great because there’s a hotel that has rental cottages with porches. That’s super big. 

John Koetsier: Cottage country is huge in Ontario. Yes. 

Nathan Myhrvold: And, but the other great thing about Timmins is that it’s North of the Great Lakes. And so it’s in this area that’s called ‘lake effect snow’ where water that evaporates from the Great Lakes tends to go fall there. 

And so in January, it will typically snow 20 days out of the month. 

John Koetsier: Wow! Lots of opportunity. 

Nathan Myhrvold: Same thing in February. It’s great! So then Fairbanks is very different. Fairbanks is way inland and it doesn’t get that much snow. Now it stays cold all winter, so whatever snow falls stays, but it gets a fraction of the snow that you would get in Timmins, but there’s times it’s not snowing in Timmins, believe it or not. If the gods are with you, or worse, it warms up. 

Now, if it warms up to being near the freezing point, the snowflakes look terrible. 

Nathan Myhrvold: Well, one of the flakes that we’re showing here, if you can go back to them—

I’ll show you what a snowflake’s pox looks like. 

No Two Alike – snowflake photo by Nathan Myhrvold

John Koetsier: Which one? 

Nathan Myhrvold: Okay, so, this is a fantastic— go back. Yeah, that bottom— that one, right there. So you can see then these little dots on it, and those little dots are something called graupel. Who knew, right? I didn’t know. There’s a name for it. Graupel is when there is a cloud that has supercooled water droplets in it.

John Koetsier: Okay.

Nathan Myhrvold:  They’re cold. They’re below the freezing point, but they don’t have any nucleation points, so nothing for them to form on. 

John Koetsier: Okay. 

Nathan Myhrvold: And as the snowflake falls through them, these tiny spheres will start  lumping on. And this is a fine, they’re still a good looking flake to me. I think a purist might sniffle that it has some graupel. But they can get so graupel-covered that they come down almost like a ball. And literally not — you don’t see that anymore. And that usually happens when you get a little bit of warmth down below. And then Yellowknife is the other place I’ve been. Yellowknife has Great Slave Lake right beside it, and that helps get more snow than Fairbanks would have, but it’s also kind of deeply inland. 

Snowflake by Nathan Myhrvold

John Koetsier: Yes. Yes. Interesting. We have a question here that might be interesting for you from LinkedIn, and this is Gavin Smith and he said, “Have you considered using DLP light for structured light projection?” Was that something that you took into account? 

Nathan Myhrvold: Yeah, so DLP is a light projector. It’s a technology that was developed by Texas Instruments originally for making projection TVs. And so it’s a chip that has millions of mirrors on it. And in general, if you have an approach that uses light beams, it’s called a ‘structured light approach.’ And the cool thing about structured light is that it would allow you to make a 3D model of the snowflake. 

Now it turns out, DLP doesn’t work for this kind of microscopy for a couple of reasons. It — what’s better if you’re trying to do that structured light thing is something called a Fanbeam laser, because you can focus that better. And I may try to add that in the future so I can make 3D print meter-sized versions for each flake. 

John Koetsier: That would be very, very interesting. I wanted to ask, I mean, you probably took thousands of snowflake photos—

Nathan Myhrvold: Oh [unclear].

John Koetsier: What’s that?

Nathan Myhrvold: Okay, so each of the photos that you see there is a composite of between 100 and 500 shots. 

John Koetsier: Wowww. That’s almost like— 

Nathan Myhrvold: Each one is that. And then, you know, if we, if I fly up to the North to do this, we usually stay for three or four days, and yeah, we’ll take 50,000 shots. 

John Koetsier: Wow! 

Nathan Myhrvold: Or more than that — 100,000.

John Koetsier: That is a lot of shots. And it reminds me a little bit of taking astronomical photographs or photographs of stars and galaxies, where you’ll often stack five minutes or 10 minutes or hours of viewing or something like that. And then of course you have the cha— 

Nathan Myhrvold: I also do that. 

John Koetsier: Okay, excellent. So yeah, cooling is in your nature ’cause you got to cool down your tube and everything, right? There’s lots of challenges there as well. When did you feel like you found the right one?

I mean, you took 50,000 per trip … how long did it take you before you felt, you know, ‘I love that shot. That’s a great shot. That’s a keeper.’ 

Nathan Myhrvold: Well, you progress over time. And I think the first day I tried this, we — I mean it was pathetic. So, you know, it takes a while to learn how to do it and everything else.

And Ken Libbrecht is a professor at Caltech, I was of course sending him pictures every now and then, and he would — eventually I got to the point he says, ‘You’re now snowflake limited.’ I said ‘What does that mean?’ He said ‘Well you know how to take pictures, you just don’t have very good looking snowflakes yet.’

You know, it’s sort of like a fashion photographer who’s stuck in a place where no one dresses up and they’re all ugly.

John Koetsier: Yes, yes. Exactly. So then it was simply a matter of continuing to grow perhaps, with technical expertise, but finding the right snowflake? 

Nathan Myhrvold: Yes. And one thing that is amazing, is it changes almost minute by minute. You had a snowstorm and that snowstorm you think is going for five hours, but if you’re out there with a piece of foam core looking at the flakes, oh my god they can change. 

John Koetsier: Yes. 

Nathan Myhrvold: And they can go — you know, there’s this thing about no two snowflakes being alike, and that’s not true for most snowflakes. Most snowflakes, numerically on the planet, aren’t these perfect stellated dendrite beauties, they’re a simple hexagonal rod or a simple hexagonal plate or something like that. But you can go from making just really boring plates to suddenly things that are amazing [snap] like that.

John Koetsier: Yes. Yes, it’s amazing. Nathan, I wanted to talk a little bit as well just about you, and a little bit about your life, because you are a — you’re a polymath. You have multiple passions.

Cooking is one of them, of all things, nobody would expect that a technologist would be into cooking. You’ve written thousands of pages of recipes for your cookbook series. You’ve published peer-reviewed research on planetary silence. You’ve done work in paleontology. You’ve done work on climate science. You worked with Stephen Hawking on quantum theories of gravitation. What drives this? What—

Nathan Myhrvold: Well I’m curious about things. So I’m curious about finding things out, and trying to understand something that people don’t. Or trying to understand something that I don’t, you know, acquisition of a new skill, like learning how to deal with these snowflakes … well, that’s a learning thing.

But I had to learn a ton of different stuff about carbon fiber engineering and optics and LEDs and so forth, all the way up there. But that’s not the problem, that’s actually part of the joy of it. You know, if it had turned out to be super simple to do this, I would have done it but then would’ve gone onto something else.

John Koetsier: You know what that reminds me of, schools in some cases have turned to project-based learning, where they’re not teaching you … they are teaching the ABCs, and you definitely need to learn mathematics and other things in some sort of structured way, but there is a process of discovery of learning what you don’t know, and acquiring the skills and the knowledge that you need to know to accomplish a goal, in doing a project.

This reminds me of that. 

Nathan Myhrvold: Yeah. Well, the thing about a project is it gives you a motivation that — now at this point in my life, I have sufficient excess motivation to pick up almost any crazy book on any technology and read it. And I don’t really need an excuse, but it always helps having an excuse.

And it’s also, in a different way, that’s why I like photography. That’s why I like this snowflake photography. Yeah, everyone goes outside and says, ‘Oh, it’s snowing. It’s beautiful.’ Then you’re like, okay, turn around you’re done and … whereas if you’re running out there with a foam core board and looking at it, it makes you — because you have this mission — it makes you really focus on the thing and really understand the snowflakes, and stop and take a moment, both to appreciate them and then to figure out oh, this one’s so good I better not take any more moments. I better get that one quickly onto the slide and away we go. 

John Koetsier: Yeah. Yeah. Amazing. Well, this has been wonderful. This has been interesting. It’s always, there’s always a real joy in listening to somebody talk about their passion. When somebody is passionate about something and interested and curious, it’s always interesting to listen to, to learn from, and I’ve enjoyed that, chatting with you here.

One thing that this podcast is about is tech that’s changing the world and innovators who are shaping the future. You’ve done both. What’s the next act? What are you most passionate about now in terms of creation and innovation? 

Nathan Myhrvold: Well, I continue to create these photos. That’s one thing I do. I’m making a giant multi-gigapixel mosaic of the Milky Way. 

John Koetsier: Wow. 

Nathan Myhrvold: That’s another thing, so I’ve done three or four trips to the desert to stay up all night taking pictures. For that, I think we have about 170,000 frames that we’re going to be analyzing and then stacking together.

John Koetsier: Owwww. You need your whole — you need Azure or AWS to help you with all this.

Nathan Myhrvold: Well, actually, so we’ve gone back and forth on that. The good news about using Azure or AWS is you have lots of processors. The problem is, we don’t process them that much. We have to get them there [laughter]. You know, we’ve been days of slowly bringing them in.

But we’re actually building a small multiprocessor system to do this, in part ’cause I want to take it with me. Because one problem with doing this kind of computational photography is you’re in a little cottage in Timmins, and you think … did it really turn out? And because each one is a composite of 500 shots, you don’t really know. 

John Koetsier: Yes.

Nathan Myhrvold: I mean you kind of guess, but … you know, in the old days—

John Koetsier: I have to ask, what does Nathan Myhrvold consider to be a small multiprocessor system?

Nathan Myhrvold: Well, I want something that’ll fit in a Pelican case so I can haul it to the cottage. So that’s, you know, I think we’re only going to do 16 systems, they’ll probably be like four cores each.

John Koetsier: Okay. Okay. Very, very good. What chips? 

Nathan Myhrvold: Well, so this was, we were all set to go on this with sort of very high-end multiprocessor chips, but then it turns out that some of the software that we used — because I write my own software for a bunch of this, but not for everything — well, some of the software was adapted by its writers to using GPUs.

John Koetsier: Yes, of course, hey right? It’s all the rage. 

Nathan Myhrvold: It turns out, really fancy high-end computer system [unclear] don’t have any provision for GPUs. So in fact, what we’re more likely to do is to take 16 of these little Intel NUC [nook] or — I’m not sure how to say it, NUC [nuck] I think they say it, supposed to rhyme with truck — these little mini PCs. 

John Koetsier: Yes.

Nathan Myhrvold: But those have gotten powerful enough that they have enough RAM and they’re starting to add GPUs to them, so that’s probably what we’ll do. 

John Koetsier: Cool. Cool. Or you could buy a whackload of, I don’t know, new MacBooks or something like that. Grab the M1 chip out and see if those work. [laughter] Probably all kinds of security stopping you from doing anything with that, but… 

Nathan Myhrvold: Well, the other problem with laptops is we really don’t need all those screens. 

John Koetsier: Exactly. You’d have to rip them all apart. Nathan, this has been a real pleasure. I want to thank you for joining us and sharing your passion for snowflakes and your passion for other things as well. 

Nathan Myhrvold: Okay, well, thank you.

John Koetsier: Hey, for everybody else, thank you for joining us on TechFirst. My name is John Koetsier. I appreciate you being along for the show. You’ll be able to get a full transcript of this in about a week at JohnKoetsier.com and the story at Forbes will come out shortly thereafter. Full video is always available on YouTube. Thanks for joining.

Until next time … this is John Koetsier with TechFirst.

Subscribe for free

Made it all the way down here? Wow. You’re dedicated 🙂

The TechFirst with John Koetsier podcast is about tech that is changing the world, and innovators who are shaping the future. Guests include former Apple CEO John Scully. The head of Facebook gaming. Amazon’s head of robotics. GitHub’s CTO. Scientists inventing smart contact lenses. Startup entrepreneurs. Google executives. Former Microsoft CTO Nathan Myhrvold. And much, much more.

I’d appreciate it if you’d subscribe on your podcast platform of choice:

 


Want weekly updates? Of course you do …



 

%d bloggers like this: