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2007 Physics Nobel Prize For Giant Magnetoresistance

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the google-thanks-you-too dept.

Data Storage 111

A number of readers made sure we are aware that the 2007 Nobel Prize in physics has been awarded to Albert Fert and Peter Grunberg for simultaneously and independently discovering giant magnetoresistance. This property has allowed the explosion of disk-space growth and is cited as being one of the first nanotechnology breakthroughs. From the announcement: "Very weak magnetic changes give rise to major differences in electrical resistance in a GMR system. A system of this kind is the perfect tool for reading data from hard disks when information registered magnetically has to be converted to electric current."

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Due to my screenwrap... (2, Funny)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 6 years ago | (#20915259)

I first read the title as 2007 Physics Nobel Prize For Giant and thought "cool!"

Onward ->

A system of this kind is the perfect tool for reading data from hard disks when information registered magnetically has to be converted to electric current."

Just as it seems we're about to move away from purely Mechanical Memory [slashdot.org] we find ways to make it better.

Re:Due to my screenwrap... (1)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 6 years ago | (#20915541)

Just as it seems we're about to move away from purely Mechanical Memory we find ways to make it better.
Just as? GMR was first discovered in 1988 and has already been used in modern HDDs. Chances are, you are using an HDD right now that has GMR-based technology in it.

As far as moving away from 'purely mechanical memory' -- I think a lot of you guys and your "SSDs are going to change everything! Real soon now!(tm)" aren't thinking of the bigger picture. I think that magnetic HDDs will continue to dominate storage for at least another decade or more for one important reason: no one has figured out a way to make flash memory ultracheap. Seagate and Samsung with their 'hybrid' drives will, of course, make lots of money selling speed-enhanced magnetic drives, but this, IMHO, simply isn't a harbinger of a future dominated by SSDs. Sorry to burst your bubble. :(

Re:Due to my screenwrap... (1)

heinousjay (683506) | more than 6 years ago | (#20915795)

The way to make it supercheap is by selling it. Economies of scale will take over, and the price drop is likely to be precipitous, if history is any guide. I think a decade might be a little long, considering how much flash prices have dropped already.

Of course, I know nothing. I'm just guessing.

Re:Due to my screenwrap... (1)

samkass (174571) | more than 6 years ago | (#20915937)

This argument doesn't make sense to me, as flash chips are selling at much higher quantities than hard disks already. Flash MP3 players and embedded devices are everywhere, and the margins on flash manufacturing aren't that high. I suspect prices are being driven down as fast as technology is allowing them to, and that building more products based on them will only drive prices higher as supply outstrips demand.

Re:Due to my screenwrap... (2, Insightful)

tlhIngan (30335) | more than 6 years ago | (#20916213)

This argument doesn't make sense to me, as flash chips are selling at much higher quantities than hard disks already. Flash MP3 players and embedded devices are everywhere, and the margins on flash manufacturing aren't that high. I suspect prices are being driven down as fast as technology is allowing them to, and that building more products based on them will only drive prices higher as supply outstrips demand.


Yes, right now there's a problem on the supply side. It turns out that Apple is one of the largest customers of flash memory (with all the iPods...), enough so that if anyone supplying Apple sneezes, prices go up. Flash memory prices are already on their way up in anticipation of Apple's increased demand for the holiday season, in fact (which is around now for production). (This is for the large single chip NAND flash - 1GB+)

If you think about it, Apple is really hard on suppliers - think of them as the Wal-Mart of the computer industry. If they can get a part cheaper, they'll bully their suppliers to get it. Thus, it's really in the supplier's interest to find better ways of making the chips cheaper. 8GB chips are already here, and 16GB ones are going to be commercially available shortly, but still, it's a tight market.

Memory technology has moved to the latest and greatest processes already (no, not 65nm... that's old tech. 35nm for memory is the standard nowadays). Problem is, spinning platters improvements have come about far faster than Moore's law. Heck, there was a time when tape was considerably cheaper (cost per megabyte/GB) than a hard disk, but those days have more or less gone (reserved for those who can afford the ultra expensive systems with TB's of space, where it may be cheaper still, but the initial startup costs are prohibitive for normal people).

Re:Due to my screenwrap... (1)

Foerstner (931398) | more than 6 years ago | (#20918045)

If you think about it, Apple is really hard on suppliers - think of them as the Wal-Mart of the computer industry. If they can get a part cheaper, they'll bully their suppliers to get it. Thus, it's really in the supplier's interest to find better ways of making the chips cheaper. 8GB chips are already here, and 16GB ones are going to be commercially available shortly, but still, it's a tight market.

The MP3 player industry, maybe. In the PC market, Apple doesn't have the buying power to squeeze its suppliers. When Apple demanded faster-cheaper PowerPCs from IBM threatening to take its then-2% market share elsewhere, Big Blue could barely stop laughing long enough to tell Steve Jobs to take a hike.

Dell is the Wal-Mart of the PC market...legendary for cutting costs (and quality, when it suits them) and pressuring suppliers. And it has the buying power to do it.

Re:Due to my screenwrap... (1)

tlhIngan (30335) | more than 6 years ago | (#20921751)

The MP3 player industry, maybe. In the PC market, Apple doesn't have the buying power to squeeze its suppliers. When Apple demanded faster-cheaper PowerPCs from IBM threatening to take its then-2% market share elsewhere, Big Blue could barely stop laughing long enough to tell Steve Jobs to take a hike.


Actually, while that is true, the reality is, Apple buys parts in huge quantities. Sure IBM could laugh them off, but think of their other customers as well - they have Microsoft, Sony/Toshiba and Nintendo as major customers also buying parts in equally big quantities from IBM, but on friendlier terms. (Add to this the inability for IBM to scale up G5 production to the quantities Apple desired - remember when Steve said there would be 3GHz G5s that never materialized? Or how the top end part *always* has shortages?) Given the choice, Apple only wants high end parts, while the yields are low (and leaving IBM with the parts that don't make it), and ending up with a pile of G5s no one wants, well, IBM simply said "no". Apple bullied, IBM bullied back, let the bigger bully win.

End result, Apple goes x86, seeing that PowerPC wasn't keeping up with the brute force and raw GHz of the x86, and supplies of the x86 CPUs are relatively plentiful. Apple could choose between AMD and Intel. They went with Intel as AMD unfortunately is at full production, and at the quantities Apple buys stuff at, it would basically strain supply (like IBM and Motorola / Freescale had). Intel instead has plenty of fab capacity, good yields, and would gladly supply chips without missing a beat.

Heck, Apple managed to take Toshiba's full production of 1.8" hard drives during the first few years of iPod production. This difficulty in supplying tiny formfactor drives led to other manufacturers to start making 1.8" drives as well (Hitachi). Now Toshiba has upgraded their facilities to make the same hard drive with ever greater capacity. (The iPod is 6 years old. In that time, the hard drive used in the iPod has grown 32 times (5GB -> 160GB) and shrunk in height to maybe 1/3rd the thickness.

For the Nanos and Shuffles, well, Apple is causing a lot of the shortages as well - prices have risen the past couple of months in anticipation of the holiday season - blame put squarely on Apple for buying up all the parts.

Actually, IBM's response to Steve was "Siooma" (1)

Eternal Vigilance (573501) | more than 6 years ago | (#20922179)

And you thought they just invented things like technology!

(I read that in the Secret Diary Of Sam Palmisano. Admittedly, it doesn't get a lot of traffic.)

Re:Due to my screenwrap... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20915999)

The way to make it supercheap is by selling it. Economies of scale will take over, and the price drop is likely to be precipitous

Economy of Scale also has to deal with diminishing returns. Even if trillions were sold by insanely competitive companies, it would never get any cheaper than the cost of the base raw materials plus the costs of assembling each level of each component.

Re:Due to my screenwrap... (2, Funny)

flyingsquid (813711) | more than 6 years ago | (#20915735)

Honestly, I don't see the practical implications. OK, great, giants can now resist Magneto. But how many mutants are also giants? I mean I guess Colossus is pretty large so maybe he would count, but basically the majority of the X-men are just as powerless against him as before.

Re:Due to my screenwrap... (1)

reverseengineer (580922) | more than 6 years ago | (#20916741)

Nah, Colossus has his own form [wikipedia.org] of magnetoresistance.

Re:Due to my screenwrap... (1)

Amouth (879122) | more than 6 years ago | (#20918425)

damn - and i already used my mod points for today

Re:Due to my screenwrap... (2, Insightful)

kf6auf (719514) | more than 6 years ago | (#20917089)

Just as it seems we're about to move away from purely Mechanical Memory [slashdot.org] we find ways to make it better.

The development of spintronics allows many things, not just the hard drive read heads we've all had for the last 10 years. There are a couple of problems with flash, and if researchers can get the sizes down, these can be fixed with MRAM, magnetic memory based on spintronics again.

Also, these are the applications we know about; as with any branch of physics, you have to give the physicists more than 20 years to figure out the physics, and then give the engineers some more time to explore what they can do with it. It takes this at least this long to truly understand the impact, but this is not really what the Nobel Prize is for (it was even originally meant to be awarded in the same year as the research is done, but it's very difficult to fully comprehend just how much of an effect a discovery will have in less than a year (though the 1987 prize for high-Tc superconductivity is an exception).

By giving the Nobel Prize now, they're saying "This has sparked a huge amount of research into a field you discovered and you deserve that credit." It is practically impossible to work in the field and not recognize these guys.

Magnetoresistance (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20915275)

Personally I find Ian McKellan quite irresistible. (Sorry)

One funny thing about Giant Magnetoresistance... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20915297)

...niggers hate it.

Hey, hey, hey... (0, Offtopic)

yorgo (595005) | more than 6 years ago | (#20915303)

...it's Feeeeert, Albert!

Stupid mods on crack again (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20915655)

Offtopic, riiiiight.

Great! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20915319)

Finally a truly geeky Nobel Prize! Perhaps this means that Linus is getting the Peace Prize this year. And RMS getting the Economics Prize? Who will get the prize for Literature? Tim O'Reilly?

Re:Great! (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20915395)

Finally a truly geeky Nobel Prize!
Yeah, because usually the Nobel Prize in physics goes to some billionaire jetsetting playboys, right?

Pr0n (3, Funny)

graviplana (1160181) | more than 6 years ago | (#20915347)

"I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices of nerds suddenly cried out in joy..."

Huh? I don't understand (0)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 6 years ago | (#20915383)

why they gave the prize for this. It is not like this is important to the rest of us in our daily lives in any meaningful way, is it?

Makes you wonder how different today is from how it was envisioned 40 years ago. With 2TB of drive space in my house, things like this could help us move toward dreams like the Star Trek holodeck and other things that will require galactic size storage systems. I'm ready for it.

Re:Huh? I don't understand (2, Insightful)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 6 years ago | (#20915553)

As you say, you really don't understand.

The Nobel committee gives prizes not based on whether it benefits the average prole, but whether it advanced the knowledge of physics, chemistry and so on.

BTW: it does benefit you, unless you don't use a sizeable hard drive. The huge hard drives that are available lately are because of this discovery.

Re:Huh? I don't understand (1)

jpflip (670957) | more than 6 years ago | (#20915761)

This has actually been a component of nearly every computer for many years. IBM apparently introduced the first commercial GMR-based hard drive in late 1997, a 16.8 Gigabyte model that at the time was among the largest commercially available. Pretty much any gigabyte-scale drive, and so essentially all drives available today, use GMR heads.

Re:Huh? I don't understand (1)

Cigarra (652458) | more than 6 years ago | (#20926123)

Exactly. From their account [ibm.com] of the story:

Stuart Parkin and two groups of colleagues at IBM's Almaden Research Center, San Jose, Calif, quickly recognized its potential, both as an important new scientific discovery in magnetic materials and one that might be used in sensors even more sensitive than MR heads.

Re:Huh? I don't understand (1)

Spy der Mann (805235) | more than 6 years ago | (#20917199)

The Nobel committee gives prizes not based on whether it benefits the average prole, but whether it advanced the knowledge of physics, chemistry and so on.

I agree with you on a 50%. See,
Smaller storage => lesser energy consumption => more trees saved => benefits for all mankind.

Re:Huh? I don't understand (1)

IthnkImParanoid (410494) | more than 6 years ago | (#20918597)

If we wanted to save trees we could just stop burning them to run our hard drives.

Re:Huh? I don't understand (2, Interesting)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 6 years ago | (#20915919)

Probably because this discovery is considered the birth of spintronics. [wikipedia.org]

Re:Huh? I don't understand (1)

BiggerBadderBen (947100) | more than 6 years ago | (#20916415)

Right. You don't understand. If it wasn't for GMR, your hard drive would have a 500MB capacity or have 100 platters.

Re:Huh? I don't understand (1)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 6 years ago | (#20916711)

I am killing myself laughing.... \ I guess that tag thing gets removed when posting, even in text mode... there was supposed to be an end sarcasm tag at the end of My first comment... sigh

thanks (2, Insightful)

trybywrench (584843) | more than 6 years ago | (#20915409)

thanks for making TB class storage available to the average consumer. High storage capacity has helped the digital music/video revolution come along. Thousands and thousands of songs stored on an average PC wouldn't be possible without advances like this.

Re:thanks (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20915793)

Thousands and thousands of songs stored on an average PC wouldn't be possible without advances like this.


Yeah, "thanks" for bringing about the huge drop in quality in music and movies that is a direct result of the rampant piracy this technology has enabled.

"Thanks" for ruining art in the Western world by removing any incentive for artists to create.

Thanks... maybe (2, Insightful)

camperdave (969942) | more than 6 years ago | (#20915893)

thanks for making TB class storage available to the average consumer.

Yes... Pity it's still a shock sensitive, slow, electromechanical device rather than a high speed, rugged, solid state removable cartridge. Seriously, though, isn't it time we started moving away from mechanical storage?

Re:Thanks... maybe (4, Insightful)

fm6 (162816) | more than 6 years ago | (#20916445)

We've been moving away from mechanical storage for 60 years, ever since the first real computer appeared. Things have gotten less and less mechanical ever since then. But it's a slow, incremental process. Old tech doesn't just disappear because somebody invented something kewler. The new tech has to make an economic case for itself. I'd love to replace my hard disks with something solid state. But it has to be affordable and reliable. The closest thing we have is flash RAM, and that's not practical for anything bigger than a couple of gigabytes. And even then, I wouldn't rely on it for mission-critical data.

Technology and economics aside, a paradigm shift would be helpful. As the OLPC's XO demonstrates, you can easily build a useful computer that doesn't have a hard disk. It just won't run all the bloatware that we're all so dependent on. OLPC's second-biggest accomplishment might be to force everyone to rethink the way our overpowered computers are designed.

Re:Thanks... maybe (1)

imsabbel (611519) | more than 6 years ago | (#20918423)

Shut up with your useless drivel.

Of _course_ you can build a computer without a HD. You can even build a computer without any kind of flash AND hd. Just put something on a floppy, and boot from it.

What uses space nowadays aint "bloatware", but the increase in media.

Yeah, back in the days you could get a few seconds of sampled sound. Later you got pictures. Later you got videos. Then 3D-Scenes.

Modern storage requirement isnt dictated by inefficient programming, but by the amount of media needed to be stored.

Re:Thanks... maybe (1)

fm6 (162816) | more than 6 years ago | (#20919659)

Uh, do you have a point? I mean beyond, "You're an idiot and I have a headache." I think you need to unplug, unwind, and come back when you're sane.

Re:thanks (1)

MtViewGuy (197597) | more than 6 years ago | (#20916291)

Interesting you mention that because one thing cited on the Nobel Prize announcement was it made it possible to put high capacity storage on a small device. That was what made the original iPod possible in the first place and why the iPod classic now can store an amazing 160 GB of media data, more data storage capacity than most desktop machine hard drives of just even a few years ago! :-O

Re:thanks (1)

Dr. Spork (142693) | more than 6 years ago | (#20917541)

Yeah, seriously! I think that cheap, huge disks are the #1 reason that's driving a continued interest in filesharing. It's not that there's more bandwidth and interest. It's just that millions of people have giant file collections that they share, and ever more space to make them more giant. It not only increases demand, but also huge increases in the supply. That's all about cheap hard drives. I had a good friend fifteen years ago with hundreds of records - an incredible collection by standards of the day. Now ordinary kids have that much music! I'm sure the RIAA want to kill these magneto-physicists... Oh well, back to suing kids...

RIAA lawsuit (1)

PMBjornerud (947233) | more than 6 years ago | (#20918203)

RIAA lawsuit in 3.. 2.. 1..

A nigger's never won the Nobel Prize for Physics (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20915435)

Ever wonder why that is?

oblig. (5, Funny)

Rob T Firefly (844560) | more than 6 years ago | (#20915477)

Surely the prize for Magneto resistance should go to Professor Charles Xavier?

Re:oblig. (1)

SlowMovingTarget (550823) | more than 6 years ago | (#20918429)

Under the "obligatory" heading...

I, for one, welcome our new, magnetoresistant giant overlords.

Re:oblig. (1)

Kingrames (858416) | more than 6 years ago | (#20919283)

Unfortunately, in order to accept the award, he would have to have gone up a flight of stairs.

WEHT the GNAA? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20915495)

Those were the only respectable niggers I've ever met.

I received the 2007 Nobel Prize for Nigger-Hating (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20915569)

It was a great honour indeed.

Hey! Hey! Hey! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20915689)

It's Fert, Albert!

DERRR, MAGNETO WAS IN DUH X-MEN COMICS!!! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20915699)

I make duh funny, original joke!!!!

Big Buck Nigger Resistance == more useful (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20915731)

Let's have that invented next.

FYI: Nobel prize $ amounts this year... (4, Informative)

thatseattleguy (897282) | more than 6 years ago | (#20915797)

...are set at $10M SEK (Swedish Kroner) - about $1.5M USD or $1.1M Euros, split between the winners equally. Not sure how this compares to previous years.

So in the end, each scientist nets about $750K USD, unless I dropped a decimal point somewhere.

/tsg/

Re:FYI: Nobel prize $ amounts this year... (1)

traveller604 (961720) | more than 6 years ago | (#20916221)

It's really not about the money.,

Re:FYI: Nobel prize $ amounts this year... (2, Interesting)

reverseengineer (580922) | more than 6 years ago | (#20916425)

The cash grant amounts associated with the Nobel Prizes have an interesting history- the foundation wasn't granted tax-exempt status until 1946, so for some of its early years, the tax assessment on the fund exceeded the total worth of that year's prizes. That, combined with orginally very conservative investment rules, caused the nominal value of the cash grants to stagnate, and the real value against inflation to plummet.

After getting tax-exempt status and easing their investment rules, the fund began to grow exponentially, and in both nominal and real terms, the current monetary award is larger than it's ever been. Here [nobelprize.org] is a listing and chart of how that amount has changed over time.

Re:FYI: Nobel prize $ amounts this year... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20919681)

I, for one, never heard of $ SEK. That some new stuff? How about $£?
SEK don't have a prefix (only a suffix "kr"), and Euro got it's own. .

Al Gore (1)

mynickwastaken (690966) | more than 6 years ago | (#20915877)

Al Gore should be nominated for this Nobel Prize. He invented the frigin Internet. Infinite tubes, infinite storage, go figure.

Patent? (3, Interesting)

grumpyman (849537) | more than 6 years ago | (#20915923)

Did anybody patent this technology?

Re:Patent? (1)

thanasakis (225405) | more than 6 years ago | (#20916459)

From the wikipedia article:

GMR was independently discovered in 1988 in Fe/Cr/Fe trilayers by a research team led by Peter Grünberg of the Jülich Research Centre, who owns the patent

Re:Patent? (1)

Affenkopf (949241) | more than 6 years ago | (#20916471)

Yes, Peter Grünberg one of the Nobel Price recipients did patent this technology.

Grünberg, to this day a leading physicist at the Jülich Research Centre in Germany, saw his patent published in 1994.
from the European Patent Office. [epo.org]

Re:Patent? (1)

grumpyman (849537) | more than 6 years ago | (#20916723)

Is this technology being used in current drives? The reason I asked is because I wonder how this "patent" relates to the $100 500GB drives that we can buy these days.

Re:Patent? (1)

Ochu (877326) | more than 6 years ago | (#20918465)

What do you mean, "patent"? Look, I know the copyleft movement, and most of Slashdot, are against software and business patents, and it is true that most of the world's patent offices really need tightening up. But that doesn't mean a patent can't be very real, and very deserved. These researchers laboured for years to crack this, and after they did, they managed to find a genuine practical application for a piece of groundbreaking new science. And you would deny them the right to get paid for it? To answer your question, the way this patent relates to the $100 drives you can buy is: they pay the licence fees. Not that hard, just because some companies price gouge, doesn't mean every patent holder has to.

Re:Patent? (1)

grumpyman (849537) | more than 6 years ago | (#20923705)

You are really missing my point. I'm basically saying if it is patented and is it related to the dramatic increase in size of hard-drive and decrease in price, and that I'm getting a 500GB for $100 drive, that means it's all good.

Re:Patent? (1)

Deadstick (535032) | more than 6 years ago | (#20917165)

Sit down, Darl.

rj

Re:Patent? (1)

Tom Womack (8005) | more than 6 years ago | (#20923887)


You can't patent the effect, but a USPTO search gives 77 patents on an assortment of devices (including one suggesting that you should sputter radon atoms into the disc surface - holy radioactive storage, Batman!) exploiting it, and US patent 6441661 (assigned to Fujitsu) looks as if it's on GMR magnetic sensors in general.

Does anyone have tools for traversing the graph of patents under reference in both directions? Key patents would tend to show up at the top of lists sorted by number of citations, but I don't think that's something I can sort on in the USPTO database.

compare this to string theory and cosmology (4, Insightful)

dario_moreno (263767) | more than 6 years ago | (#20916095)

Just compare the achievements of those two geniuses with the recent discussion about the crackpots speculating about the metrics of the universe. Here we have a real, old-fashioned Nobel Prize : a simple and brilliant idea, an experimental demonstration, and practical applications, like in the 1900s were you had to demonstrate the effect in front of the Academy of Sciences in order to get the prize or even to get your paper published, look at the online lessons from the time (Lippman for instance). As a professor of physics I was on the commitee of a conference aimed at high school teachers about modern days physics. I suggested the teachers in charge invited Fert but they answered that they do not understand a single thing about spin and ironically enough they wanted conferences about string theory and particle physics instead : there is definitely something wrong with public outreach of science, astrophysicists and particle physicists having built PR machines on the scale of their accelerators, observatories and budgets, and grabbing a huge part of the grants, when, with the same budget than the CERN spent on condensed matter physics or (relatively) small budget experiments maybe we would have a thousand of discoveries like the one of Fert. I bet that in CERN maybe a physicist in a thousand, with an IQ over 200, sees the big picture and understands what the wotk is really about. Atomic, molecular or condensed state physics, fluid mechanics, soft matter physics, are much more tractable and practical with real challenges (high-TC supraconductivity...) Admiteddly the Web came out of CERN but still...

Re:compare this to string theory and cosmology (1)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 6 years ago | (#20916215)

This is hardly two guys working in thier basements. These [wikipedia.org] guys [wikipedia.org] (the institutions the winners are from) are clearly not doing small budget science. But I do agree with you that too much "national capital equipment" science is done at the expense of more modest goals.

Nah, it's just a scheduling thing (1)

hawk (1151) | more than 6 years ago | (#20919455)

Don't believe that; it's really about scheduling on the hard drive.

It's an algorithm to deal with competing requests. The german portion of the algorithm attempts to write everywhere immediately, while the french portion hides behind a bad sector and then surrenders . . . :)

hawk

You are quite a small-minded person. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20916455)

The fact that your concrete-bound anti-intellectualism screed was modded up only proves Nietzsche was right.

Re:You are quite a small-minded person. (1)

dario_moreno (263767) | more than 6 years ago | (#20916721)

I am sorry to remind you that science is about the "reality principle" and that some people tend to forget it nowadays but will be reminded about it soon or later. This is also true in politics as hopefully NeoCons will soon discover : myths and dreams only get you that far. In that regard, I am indeed totally against the ideas of Nietzsche. And there are intellectually exciting discoveries to be made in the subdisciplines I mentioned, like a nice explanation of high-TC superconductivity, turbulence, etc. I do not see how this is anti-intellectual.

Re:compare this to string theory and cosmology (1)

Lord Ender (156273) | more than 6 years ago | (#20916523)

So quit whining and start your own PR machine to stimulate public interest in funding your area of research. Do you really need equipment as expensive as a particle accelerator to continue your research?

Re:compare this to string theory and cosmology (1)

mapkinase (958129) | more than 6 years ago | (#20916753)

The research that you talking about in solid state is much closer to real science and technology (more scientific = closer to technology), that is why there are a lot of private money showering on it. On the contrary the science of 11th dimension will not be funded by any private researcher of the right mind unless he does not know that there is Ethiopia in Africa. That is why the PR campaign of "academic community" working so hard to get that money from the public.

Re:compare this to string theory and cosmology (3, Insightful)

Ambitwistor (1041236) | more than 6 years ago | (#20916821)

If you want to equate the importance of physics with technological applications, fine, but that's not the only reason to do physics. Learning about the fundamental building blocks of the universe has intellectual merit of its own, and face it, a lot of ordinary people are really interested what physicists learn about such things. You seem to be arguing that people shouldn't be interested in particle physics or whatever, just because condensed matter is more practical. That's a value judgement.

By the way, it's a fallacy to think that if not for Big Particle Physics, condensed matter physics would be enormously more fruitful. If the money wasn't going to accelerators, that doesn't mean it would be going to condensed matter physicists instead; it might just go to biologists.

And just dumping money on condensed matter doesn't guarantee breakthroughs. There are already far more condensed matter physicists than particle physicists; if you try to buy even more of them, you're necessarily going to start scraping the bottom of the talent barrel, and you get diminishing returns. Unless you're arguing that the money should go to existing condensed matter physicists without expanding the talent pool, to fund work that they currently can't afford to do. Well, I don't buy that either: the guys most likely to make breakthroughs are almost certainly already well funded.

Disclosure: I did my PhD in condensed matter.

Re:compare this to string theory and cosmology (1)

dario_moreno (263767) | more than 6 years ago | (#20922755)

you are right, I am actually disgusted by the quest of absolute and religiosity by the 80-90% of humans who actually do not have a scientific mind. And particle physicists and especially cosmologists exploit that shamefully. How can you explain standard model to someone whose mind blocks on the concept of electron spin ? By cheating. I basically agree however with the rest of your post but remind persuaded that small is beautiful.

Re:compare this to string theory and cosmology (1)

Ambitwistor (1041236) | more than 6 years ago | (#20925325)

I am actually disgusted by the quest of absolute and religiosity by the 80-90% of humans who actually do not have a scientific mind.
I don't know quite what you mean by that, but what does that have to do with particle vs. condensed matter physics?

And particle physicists and especially cosmologists exploit that shamefully.
... what?

Many non scientists are simply very interested in the fundamental building blocks of matter, the origins and fate of the universe, etc. This is not a failing, or an absence of a "scientific mind". It's not "exploitation" to teach people about things they're interested in.

How can you explain standard model to someone whose mind blocks on the concept of electron spin ?
It's not really harder to explain the basics of particle physics to such a person than it is to explain how giant magnetoresistance works. But even if it was harder, so what? What has that got to do with anything? It might be harder, but you can still communicate the basic concepts.

By cheating.
Piffle. Any time a physicist invokes Newton's laws, they're "cheating" too: they've been superseded by quantum theory and relativity. For that matter, if you want to explain anything in condensed matter, you necessarily have to simplify some of the details of quantum mechanics, band structure, etc. You're not constructing an argument against particle physics, you're constructing one against all of physics. Is that what you really want to do?

Read Feynman's QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter for a good example of how to explain particle physics with a minimum of "cheating". Other than ignoring photon polarization, he almost literally described the path integral formulation of quantum electrodynamics, leaving nothing out.

I basically agree however with the rest of your post but remind persuaded that small is beautiful.
Small is beautiful, but so is large.

Re:compare this to string theory and cosmology (1)

dario_moreno (263767) | more than 6 years ago | (#20925665)

Could you read my whole comment before taking out the first sentence ?

My point is that astrophysicists, cosmologists and the like exploit the desire of a non-scientific public for dreams and answers about nature.

How can you honestly explain the standard model without explaining first quantum mechanics, second quantification and relativity ? And how can you do this without first explaining electromagnetism and classical mechanics ? And how can you this beyond (and including) Galileo's theories without elementary algebra, calculus, trigonometry, vector analysis ? 80% of humans never mastered these concepts in highschool, and never will. So you can explain modern science by transforming it into some kind of taxonomy and fairy tales, but the real beauty of it, which lies in its mathematization, hence its predictive power, can not really be transmitted in a general outreach conference nowadays since most people shy at any real mathematical or thought effort. On my opinion this is why science enrolment in universities is falling except for Chinese and Indians.

I am not making an argument against physics, which I love, but against contempory vulgarisation, PR of science, and so on. Read Jules Verne "from the Earth to the Moon" and you'll see that he was not shy for a SF and vulgarization book to recur to calculus and real Newtonian mechanics. Nowadays a SF book would never be published if it included so detailed equations and calculations.

Re:compare this to string theory and cosmology (1)

Ambitwistor (1041236) | more than 6 years ago | (#20926595)

Could you read my whole comment before taking out the first sentence ?
I did. The first sentence made no sense to me. I replied to the rest.

My point is that astrophysicists, cosmologists and the like exploit the desire of a non-scientific public for dreams and answers about nature.
How is that "exploitation"? The public is interested in these things, so are the scientists, what is the problem?

How can you honestly explain the standard model without explaining first quantum mechanics, second quantification and relativity ?
You can get pretty far without explaining any of those things. You don't need any of that to understand that there are different types of particles, different types of interactions, and what some of their physical properties are. We're not talking about deriving the spin-statistics theorem here.

For an approach that implicitly incorporates both quantum theory and relativity, I refer you again to Feynman's book.

And how can you do this without first explaining electromagnetism and classical mechanics ?
People know basic things about electricity and magnetism already. They don't need Maxwell's equations. They don't need to know Lagrangians either.

Geeze, how would you explain to the public anything in condensed matter physics by these criteria? You obviously don't have a problem with astrophysicists or particle physicists.

So you can explain modern science by transforming it into some kind of taxonomy and fairy tales, but the real beauty of it, which lies in its mathematization, hence its predictive power,
Oh boo hoo, you don't get to teach them differential geometry. The claim that you have to have a full mathematical understanding of physics to learn anything useful about it is absurd.

On my opinion this is why science enrolment in universities is falling except for Chinese and Indians.
Go ahead, explain to me how Chinese and Indian enrollment has surged because they don't have any popular science books in those countries. What a joke.

Re:compare this to string theory and cosmology (2, Insightful)

rasputin465 (1032646) | more than 6 years ago | (#20916993)

I bet that in CERN maybe a physicist in a thousand, with an IQ over 200, sees the big picture and understands what the wotk is really about.

That's highly unlikely. If you are a prof. of physics, as you claim, then you know very well what it takes to obtain a Ph.D., and one of the most basic requirements is the ability to demonstrate a very complete understanding of the relevant field and the "big picture" as you put it. And that's just for the degree; there's no WAY someone could get a faculty appointment without that level of understanding.

It's very true that accelerator-based particle physics is coming to a dead end. But I think the suggestion that particle physicists get to play with huge budgets simply because of better PR is unfounded. In general, condensed matter research simply doesn't require huge budgets. Cutting-edge CM research can still be done in a one-room laboratory these days, with a crew of less than ten. Believe you me, the huge budgets of CERN and Fermilab are hinderances more than blessings, because it takes much more time and people to make a breakthrough. And don't fall into the trap of thinking that pure research is worthless because it is not so "tractable and practical". For example, let's not forget that the development of quantum mechanics was completely untractable and unpractical, but without it, all the transistors you rely on to read this posting wouldn't exist...

Oh, and please leave string theory out of this. Most people in our field don't even consider that real science.

Re:compare this to string theory and cosmology (1)

dario_moreno (263767) | more than 6 years ago | (#20917745)

there is understanding and understanding. There is a difference in between aligning the correct buzzwords in approximately the correct order (as many string theorists do) and producing a grand unified theory of quantum gravitation and of the other forces -at nonzero temperature of course- , for which one should have the brains of the lovechild of Einstein, Newton, Poincaré and a good dozen of mathematicians. Besides you actually defend my point : much research in physics on scales varying between the atom and the man can be made with relatively low budgets (a few M$ a year being already on the very confortable side), so with the budgets given on astrophysics or particle physics ( add manned space exploration to that) one could fund thousands of small groups working on interesting, open problems. Quantum mechanics was developed by collaborations of a few persons without huge means, and gave immediatly verifiable predictions and realizations like the electronical microscope, the Stern-Gerlach experiment, NMR, EPR, the transistor as you mention (done on a tabletop) etc. Fermi had a budget equivalent to maybe 5000$ a year in fascist Italy and managed to get a nobel prize. I do not attack theoreticians at all, I just say that the one working on the real, interesting problems, often with extremely esoteric methods (and admittedly some coming from particle physics from 20 to 30 years ago like the renormalization group theory, bosonisation, C-star algebras, etc) do not get the recognition they deserve in the public as they are shadowed by Hawking-like celebrities.

Re:compare this to string theory and cosmology (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20921459)

Although I agree with you in general terms, I have to say though that you are slightly unfair. First of all, CERN is not all about high energy. True it is advertised as that but many breakthroughs have been made in order to build the machine ( e.g the LHC magnets ). Lots of technology transfer has/will happen from CERN -> Industry and that is why they are getting the funding in the first place[0] ( I don't think politicians care about the Higgs boson or SUSY ). As far as cosmology is concerned, sure it doesn't provide any immediate benefits to our everyday life ( apart from the satisfaction that we know something about ourselves and the world around us ) but it is a fascinating subject by itself and the Friedman-Robertson-Walker cosmology I am slightly aware of is not far fetched ( assuming our universe is homogeneous and isotropic of course! ). Not to mention that I prefer the maths ( or theory ) behind HEP as opposed to those in DFT ( cooking anyone? ). Plus, condensed matter physics has its theorists as well, I have no clue why theoretical physics has to refer to high energy theory. What about BCS for example? Anyway, I am switching to finance one way or another \m/ :-p

[0]. CERN was established in order to reduce the influx of EU scientists in the USA after WWII.

Re:compare this to string theory and cosmology (1)

ioshhdflwuegfh (1067182) | more than 6 years ago | (#20923913)

But I think the suggestion that particle physicists get to play with huge budgets simply because of better PR is unfounded. In general, condensed matter research simply doesn't require huge budgets.
You are joking, right? You must be joking, I require it!

Re:compare this to string theory and cosmology (1)

bjorniac (836863) | more than 6 years ago | (#20921123)

You're right. And that silly speed of light is the same in all reference frames, what a crazy idea. It'll never have a practical application right?

In theoretical physics what we do is... theoretical. Get used to it. Oh, and conflating CERN and cosmology so much makes me seriously doubt your credentials. Most string theorists have a budget of their own salary plus a few grad students/post docs. CERN is largely examining the standard model (looking for a Higgs boson, for example) which is an incredibly well tested theory, and has had a number of practical applications - you wouldn't have your nice lasers for AMO without quantum electrodynamics...

If you're embarrassed by your lack of funding, I'm sorry. But with the lack of understanding you show here, I'm not surprised.

Re:compare this to string theory and cosmology (1)

dario_moreno (263767) | more than 6 years ago | (#20922725)

my original post made the following points : small is beautiful (hence my rant about CERN and astrophysicists, when ideas need $10bn to be tested maybe they can be postponed until a smaller experiment is designed) Experience is the judge (hence my rant against cosmologist and string theorists) Eistein was working on his spare time when he discovered relativity, and there were immediate and simple verifications. CERN does not work on quantum electrodynamics which was achieved by Schwinger, Tomonaga and Feynman even before CERN wa funded. Someone like Cohen-Tannoudji has more contributed to the field afterwards from his small lab than many members of those 1000+ collaborations. The standard model doesn't have any practical applications I am aware of right now. Sure, more powerful computers and detectors were developed there, as with the Web, but my point was that there are exciting intellectual challenges in physics besides those fields of particle physics and astrophysics and that in my opinion the public is not aware of that.

Re:compare this to string theory and cosmology (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 6 years ago | (#20922859)

I like to compare science choices to investments (stocks, bonds, derivatives, etc). They all have different risks and payoff profiles. It is possible that fundamental particle science may find a revolutionary breakthru that leads to worm-hole travel or anti-gravity engines. But the chance of that is relatively small compared to more practical research that you mention. But the practical stuff only produces incremental steps in knowledge. We may need the big breakthroughs for the quantum (sic) leaps in technology. Like an investment portfolio, we should diversify (mix) our investments between the practical and the long-shot.

This shows the US has got the best scientists.... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20923545)

Eat your heart out, Europe! We rock!!!!

Re:compare this to string theory and cosmology (1)

ioshhdflwuegfh (1067182) | more than 6 years ago | (#20923841)

Just compare the achievements of those two geniuses with the recent discussion about the crackpots speculating about the metrics of the universe. Here we have a real, old-fashioned Nobel Prize : a simple and brilliant idea, an experimental demonstration, and practical applications,[...]
Well, Einstein never got the Nobel prize for the general theory of relativity. Just think about it for a second: He did not get the Nobel prize for the general theory of relativity!

I suggested the teachers in charge invited Fert but they answered that they do not understand a single thing about spin and ironically enough they wanted conferences about string theory and particle physics instead
Irony is definitely thick: particle physicist would say that spin simply has to do with the irreducible representations of the Lorentz group of the special theory of relativity. Then they would keep on going about iso-spin, susy, confomal invariance, etc... It is not unheard of Dirac equation being also used in the area of high-Tc.
You complain about PR of people in the string theory and such, then add some more to the same PR:

I bet that in CERN maybe a physicist in a thousand, with an IQ over 200, sees the big picture and understands what the wotk is really about.
Is it not true that exactly this kind of attitude is what fuels this PR in the first place? Or, for that matter, the theory of high-Tc?

Atomic, molecular or condensed state physics, fluid mechanics, soft matter physics, are much more tractable and practical with real challenges (high-TC supraconductivity...)
yes, or the colossal magneto resistance, etc. Now, since you follow this field you surely know how much mystification and pointless battles are going on in the high-Tc arena. Of course, not exactly small part of this problem is that one day someone will have to decide which theorist(s) should get the Nobel Prize for high-Tc (I think the experimental part of the medal is already known).

Let me share with you my experience with high-Tc. You know how everybody accuses string theorists that they have no experimental inclinations to test their theory. Well, I once attended very attentively talk by a major high-Tc theorist where he was explaining his theory of high-Tc. He gave some sketches of the microscopic mechanisms and then proceeded to experimental results, and showed how his theory could explain this or that experimental result. In the process, he used no formulas, let alone Hamiltonians or Lagrangians or empirical fits or whatever might closely resemble what is usually called theoretical physics. That's a problem to me.

Re:compare this to string theory and cosmology (1)

mahlerfan999 (1077021) | more than 6 years ago | (#20924583)

I agree that condensed matter doesn't get the PR that it deserves, which is the fault of condensed matter physicists. String Theory has so much press because people like Brian Greene and Kaku generated it. If you had people going out telling people how cool materials science can be, you could get the media's attention. But don't complain about funding, materials science gets much better funding than any other area of physics. Complaining about funding is wrong headed to the point where I would question if you work in a decent department to realize what the funding situation really is.

You should be happy to know that yesterday I talked (in the physics class that I teach) about superconductivity and high temperature superconductivity. So even if you condensed matter types can't be bothered to excite people about your research, we pi in the sky theory types will do some of it for you.

Re:compare this to string theory and cosmology (1)

dario_moreno (263767) | more than 6 years ago | (#20924921)

thank you for your support ; but on the one hand I do not complain about MY lack of funding (everyone nowadays assumes one is automatically egoistic and self concerned), because I am also a theoretician albeit a numerical one, so have small needs besides my own salary, access to parallel computers, a conference under the sun, and a postdoc/PHD from time to time, and on the other hand I work in France where the situation of science funding is rather different than in the US although slowly converging.

Not everybody will be amused (2, Funny)

rrohbeck (944847) | more than 6 years ago | (#20916395)

The MPAA/RIAA must hate those guys.

Re:Not everybody will be amused (1)

Neanderthal Ninny (1153369) | more than 6 years ago | (#20917475)

The RIAA/MPAA hates the CD/DVD/Blueray/HD-DVD recorder makers and the creators of the P2P networks. If they data stays where it remains the RIAA/MPAA can't do anything to you.

Re:Not everybody will be amused (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 6 years ago | (#20918697)

On the other hand, they were perfectly happy when we couldn't just jam 10,000 songs and a few dozen movies into a small device that fits in a pocket. They're no particular fan of cheap storage, believe me. It's not a matter of what they can or can't do to you, it's the fact that a low cost per bit made it really easy for people acquire vast collections of media. That does piss them off, bigtime ... if those assholes were running the show back then, we'd all be using 5.25" floppies.

Re:Not everybody will be amused (1)

Ihlosi (895663) | more than 6 years ago | (#20923341)

The MPAA/RIAA must hate those guys.



Yes. First those pesky Germans invent MP3, and then they invent stuff to make hard drives even bigger. Guess which country will end up on the "supports terrorism and needs to be invaded (again)" list next.

Albert Fert? (1)

DaredevilNZ (1170555) | more than 6 years ago | (#20916835)

Feeert, Albert. Na na na, gonna have a good time. Hey hey hi...

Interesting analogy (4, Interesting)

Vainglorious Coward (267452) | more than 6 years ago | (#20916869)

The BBC coverage of this story [bbc.co.uk] has a nice analogy :

equivalent to a jet flying at a speed of 30,000 kmph, at a height of just one metre above the ground, and yet being able to see and catalogue every single blade of grass it passes over

Re:Interesting analogy (1)

Deadstick (535032) | more than 6 years ago | (#20917215)

How much is that in VW Beetles per football field?

rj

A great magazine article... (1)

Desert Tripper (1166529) | more than 6 years ago | (#20918553)

From American Scientist Magazine, May/June 2002. It's a few years old but the best article I've read to date on hard drive technology. It recaps the phenomenal advances of hard drive technology over the years and then asks the question: "When the terabyte drives come out, will we have enough data to store on them?" (At the rate I aggregate data, I would give an emphatic "Yes!") http://www.americanscientist.org/content/AMSCI/AMSCI/ArticleAltFormat/2003423135512_546.pdf [americanscientist.org]

Phisics Nobel Prize can't understand Vista ! (1)

ze_jua (910531) | more than 6 years ago | (#20918623)

In an interview on French radio "France Info", the 2007 Physics Nobel Prize co-winner Albert Fert replied to this question :

- Do you like computers ? (his works has big implication in computer hardware)

He replied
- I just use them, I can't say I like it. I have a new one with Windows Vista, and a don't understand everything, I need to adapt.

!!!

Re:Phisics Nobel Prize can't understand Vista ! (1)

fbjon (692006) | more than 6 years ago | (#20919337)

Nothing new there: nobody understands Vista.


The Vista source code will probably get the 2007 literature Nobel prize, "for its narrative mastery, which with great sensibility expresses the failures of mankind."

they gave the nobel prize to (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20918949)

Fat Albert and Peter Griffin?

Oh...

from theory to practice (2, Informative)

patfla (967983) | more than 6 years ago | (#20919313)

These were the guys who discovered the effect. And I suppose they deserve Nobel prizes of it.

But it was IBM's Almaden Research Lab - and a lot of blood, sweat, toil and materials science - that turned GMR into a commercial reality.

And then, some yrs later, IBM turned around and sold its whole disk drive division to Hitachi.

But I imagine they did so with something more than a gleam in their eye. And I doubt that gleam was flash memory.

Disk drives have become another brutal low/no margin business. In fact they've been that way for a long time. You can come up with something new like Toshiba's first 1" drive that made the first iPods possible. But even those drives commanded a premium for some finite period of time.

It's history maybe quite a few people don't know, but IBM invented RAM (aka DRAM). Randomly accessible memory. Prior to that, you actually had to sequentially read your way through main memory to find what you wanted. Something in the way tape drives used to work, and possibly still work (don't spend a lot of time keeping up on tape drive technology).

And it (RAM) cost (I think) something like $1 bln in 1970 dollars.

alternative meaning (1)

Muhammar (659468) | more than 6 years ago | (#20920167)

Giant magnetoresistance = Superconducting cryogenically-cooled defensive shield erected by giant pandas - designed to scramble our cell phones and credit cards, and to prevent us from encroaching on their habitat

I, for one- (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20920527)

...bow before our French and German overlards!

Fp c0M (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20920765)

irc.easynews.com From a technical Slings are limited, blue, rubber operating systems session and join in To foster a gay and 200 running NT includes where you ofone single puny REAPER NOR DO THE FreeBSD continues to download the it's going, accounts for lees = 1400 NetBSD gains market share out how to make the to die. I 3ill jam YOUR OWN BEER problem; a few When I stood for that FreeBSD is Lizard - In other sudden and BSD's codebase

GMR and storage devices (1)

cciRRus (889392) | more than 6 years ago | (#20920891)

Wikipedia explains GMR but if you are keen to know about the effects of GMR on storage devices, you can refer to an article [ibm.com] by IBM Research. There's even an animation [ibm.com] on MR and GMR in action in storage devices.
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