THE NOBEL IPOD

Now, I don’t know if you can access this article or not, but you are gonna hear about it here first.

Two researchers who discovered an effect that has dramatically shrunk the size of magnetic storage devices have won the 2007 Nobel Prize in Physics.

Albert Fert of the University of Paris-South in France and Peter Grünberg of Jülich Research Centre in Germany split the prize for their 1988 discovery of an effect called giant magnetoresistance (GMR). The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced the award on 9 October in Stockholm.

The effect has been heralded as one of the first major applications of the fields of nanotechnology and ‘spintronics’.

Hmmn. This sounds okay so far, right? Now take of that dunce cap you were born with, and eat this:

Albert Fert of the University of Paris-South in France and Peter Grünberg of Jülich Research Centre in Germany split the prize for their 1988 discovery of an effect called giant magnetoresistance (GMR). The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced the award on 9 October in Stockholm.

The effect has been heralded as one of the first major applications of the fields of nanotechnology and ‘spintronics‘.
At the heart of GMR are the spins of electrons, which generate a magnetic field and can be aligned either up or down. An electron can easily pass through a material whose electrons are similarly aligned, but will encounter resistance when it passes through one with electrons aligned in the opposite direction.

Fert and Grünberg discovered the effect independently of each other using multiple layers of magnetic and non-magnetic materials only tens of nanometres thick. When all the layers were aligned in the same direction, say ‘up’, electrons with the same alignment passed through the material easily, whereas those with the opposite alignment struggled. But when the layers were organized in an alternating ‘up-down’ alignment, all electrons encountered resistance. The net effect was a rise in resistance that was much bigger than any seen before — hence ‘giant’.

This led to devices that are very sensitive to tiny magnetic fields. A hard disc drive stores bits on its surface as a pattern of magnetic fields. Until the discovery of GMR, hard discs used metal induction coils to read out the data. But the laws of induction meant that the coils, and thus the bits, had to be quite large. GMR opened up a way to build much smaller magnetic heads, says Claude Chappert of the University of Paris-South. The discovery revolutionized consumer electronics. “I think this triggered the common use of MP3 players,” he notes.

Now, unless you were one of those whose cerebral electrical activity has long been absurdly spikey owing to a congenital defect in your genetic chimney soup, leading you to solve ridiculous mathematical problems which don’t exist in real life…. okay, let me stop this sentence already. As Naipaul said, keep your sentences short. So, where was I? Yes, I was telling you that if you were a student of the Indian Institute of Technology or equivalent, then you would understand what I have quoted here. Normal people will pull their rolling eyeballs back from orbit, and blink. Exit blog.
Here is a wiki article on spintronics.
It is, these bozos have decided, not enough that such a stupendous electronic buzz has already gone this far. After all, these guys must have been nominated for this Nobel when in their knickers (and hence known how important their work was), and only now the Nobel Committee must have woken up to these guys.
So, what else?

Storing information is not the only application, says Fert. The discovery has also opened the door to the possibility of ‘spintronics’, the idea of using electrons’ spins, as well as their charge, in electronic devices. Spintronics could soon lead to random-access memory that remains stable even without power, securing data and allowing some computers to start up more quickly, says Bart van Wees of Groningen University in the Netherlands. It could also create new ways for fibre-optic systems and conventional semiconductors to talk to each other.

Even further out is the possibility of processing information using spin, rather than electrical current. Although still highly speculative, Chappert says, such a computer could run faster and on much lower power than existing devices. “Spintronics could bring a lot.”

On that promising, perplexed and boggled note, let us depart.

22 responses to “THE NOBEL IPOD

  1. I’ve always been impressed with our current selection of technology, but this puts a whole new spin on electronics.

  2. I suppose we can expect iPods to be out-of-stock everywhere now, especially because of the ongoing demand that started way before the Nobel announcement.

  3. Hey Doc,
    What was that all about, NOBEL PRIZE , IIT , IPOD , wiki or the nature.com ‘s something went wrong…….
    please tell me what actually you wanted to say….

    Hey, Anurag!
    Forget it. This article is not for you (nor for me).
    Read the Vagina article or something, will ya?!
    😀

  4. ah i got the bottomline ….
    nobel commmittee has woken up….(dis has nothing 2 with my mental faculty….)

    we have a saying ” Jab jago tab sawera”

  5. Now it all makes sense. The Bush Administration has already perfected the application of spintronics.

    Arun,
    Great one!
    😀

  6. hey doc its off the record…
    i m down wid viral….down self medication…
    takin levoquin….is it ok ?

    Really can’t say. Antibiotics work only for bacterial infections, not viral ones.
    This comment will be deleted when you say so.

  7. this is a nice topic “self medication in india”

  8. thanx doc delete em

  9. im down with bronchitis
    and also self medicating with amox and expectorant

    it is much more far reaching the the ipod nano!

    nano and bioinfo is the next gen cutting edge

    i had seen some cern and futuristic videos which my phd bioinfo friend eagerly showed me and we had discussions on this 6 mths ago
    little wonder the nobel committee has woken up

    hey sony has come up with their oled screens
    maybe they will be in the mkt in next 5 yrs

  10. I guess there’s still hope for the project i did in 12th grade. Given the 20 odd year wait, in another 10 years i might just become nobility.

    Autographs, anyone?

  11. @ Rambodoc:

    The original spinmeister (T Blair) has now retired else they might have been angling to get him into this story somehow…

    “one of those whose cerebral electrical activity has long been absurdly spikey owing to a congenital defect in your genetic chimney soup, leading you to solve ridiculous mathematical problems which don’t exist in real life…”

    Or you could be one who had paid attention in Grade 6 physics when they taught about electrons and started hinting at electromagnetics…

    BTW, if you think THIS Nobel prize is delayed, what do you think about the Medicine Nobel? The chaps are in their 80s. Which makes Albert Fert look very young!

    Even putting our faith in the longevity of their generation – defying all odds as they were at the time of their birth – that is a bit late..

    I think the Nobel committee leaves it very late, so that they do not have to read complicated stuff. They wait and see if a person will pop his clogs but when it doesn’t happen, oh well, we might as well give it to this oldie now…

    @ AD: Should that not be “Nobelity”? 😉

  12. AD: I had no idea you were in your 60s or 70s… considering they only give Nobels to old people and you are hoping to get it in 10 years’ time…

  13. Um, I understood the article. Not because I’m an engineering student but because I remember the elementary physics I learnt.

  14. Shefaly:

    Umm…the cat is out of the bag now. Or was it the hat?
    You also know now that i finished high school at the ripe old age of 60 🙂

    Also, doesnt nobelity lead to nobility?

  15. So, as an elementary school child, should I just believe my Royal Swedish Academy parents, that this is indeed a great invention, as they’re scientific and rational? 😉

  16. As most scientists stop working once they get the Nobel prize, 🙂
    the prize is now being deliberately awarded either post retirement or posthumously.

  17. Guess I am not as lucky as Marc coz Physics was my most hated subject…
    what is interesting however is the Rambodoc effect…you were on the wordpress.com site again and I arrived here from there.

  18. @ Marc: Exactly. Grade 6 Physics as I mentioned.

    @ AD: If you cannot remember if the cat was in the bag or the hat, you must be getting _really_ old! 😉

    As Madhuri suggests, are you retiring? You could write movie reviews in your retirement you know!

  19. starts out laughing but bends over doubled stricken with a bout of serious coughing

    Guess i”ll stick to movie reviews. I am great at doing that 😉

  20. Shefaly 🙂

  21. Thanks, guys, for pitching in with your comments!
    Keep it going! I don’t need to have the last word here, so ignore me!
    🙂

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