Episode 95: How Computers Work Part V - Assembly Language and the Operating System

• February 14th, 2018

In this the fifth episode of the series 'how computers work', I begin with a summary of some of the major methods of improving the performance of the central processing unit, including pipelining, cache memory, branch prediction, and parallel processing. Following a brief introduction to assembly langague and its relationship to the machine code, I then discuss the operating system and how it interfaces with the hardware to manage program memory, system calls, input/output, and processes.

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Episode 94: How Computers Work Part IV - Processor Architecture and Machine Code

• February 4th, 2018

In this fourth part in our series on computers, I begin with an overview of the von Neumann architecture used in most modern computers. This leads in a discussion of the structure and operation of the central processing unit, covering the instruction register, the program counter, main memory, the data and address buses, the ALU, and the control Unit. I then discuss the purpose and implementation of a number of key operations in the instruction set architecture, including arithmetic operations, data movement operations, and conditional branches.

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Episode 93: How Computers Work Part III - Logic Gates and Components

• January 20th, 2018

In this third part of the series on computers I begin with an overview of Boolean algebra, including a discussion of key logic functions such as NOT, AND, and OR, and also discuss how CMOS logic gates implementing these functions are fabricated from transistors. I then survey the wide variety of logic components used in electronic circuits, including the multiplexor, adder, tristate buffer, flip-flops, comparator, and clock generator, and discuss the functions fulfilled by these devices in modern computers.

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Episode 92: How Computers Work Part II - Silicon and Transistors

• January 10th, 2018

In this second episode in the series, I explain binary digital coding to motivate a discussion of the operation of transistors. Beginning with an examination of the properties of semiconductors and why they are useful for constructing transistors, I then examine how MOSFET transistors are constructed by combining pMOS and nMOS semiconductors.

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Episode 91: How Computers Work Part I - What is a Computer?

• December 30th, 2017

We begin our series discussing how computers work with an overview of the theory of computation, including a discussion of Turing machines and Turing completeness, and a brief history of early analog and digital computers. I also provide an introduction to the key components of a modern computer, and review the different levels in the hierarchy of computer organisation.

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Episode 90: Climate Systems

• December 1st, 2017

An analysis of the major factors influencing climactic variation over Earth's surface, including a discussion of the effect of differential heating at different latitudes, the impact of continentality and sea breezes, the causes of monsoons, the coriolis effect, atmospheric circulation cells, the jet streams, and thermohaline circulation currents in Earth's oceans. Recommended pre-listening is Episode 88: Cartography and Earths Seasons, and Episode 89: The Atmosphere.

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Episode 89: The Atmosphere

• November 23rd, 2017

An overview of the composition and layers of the Earth's atmosphere, including a discussion of the exosphere, thermosphere, mesosphere, stratosphere, and troposphere. I also discuss the ozone layer and ozone depletion, the Karman line which marks the boundary of space, and the ionosphere. Recommended pre-listening is Episode 42: Gases and Gas Laws.

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Episode 88: Cartography and Earths Seasons

• September 30th, 2017

A discussion of the shape of the Earth and the difficulties and conventions involved in describing a three-dimensional surface on a two-dimensional map, including an overview of some of the major map projections and their various limitations. This leads in to an overview of Earth's axial tilt and variation in solar insolation by latitude as an explanation for the seasonal variation in weather across the planet. Recommended pre-listening is Episode 87: The Geography of Planet Earth.

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Episode 87: The Geography of Planet Earth

• August 27th, 2017

An overview of some of the key geographic features of planet Earth, including a discussion of the concept and classification of continents, the major mountain ranges and major river basins around the planet. I also discuss the major world biomes, their major climactic and botanical features, and their relative locations across the Earth.

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Episode 86: The Evidence for Evolution

• August 13th, 2017

An outline of the various lines of evidence in favour of the theory of evolution by natural selection, including a discussion of natural and artificial examples of natural selection in action, as well as a review of the evidence from the fossil record, comparative anatomy, biogeography, and molecular evidence. Recommended pre-listening is Episode 21: Introduction to Evolution.

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