iPods, better laptops stemmed from Nobel Prize discovery

Physicists’ Giant Magnetoresistance discovery enabled more compact hard disks

The 2007 Nobel Prize in Physics has been awarded to two researchers for their discovery of Giant Magnetoresistance (GMR), a sort of nanotechnology that enables more compact disks to be squeezed into laptops, iPods and other such devices.

The discovery was made separately in 1988 by Albert Fert of France and Peter Grunberg of Germany, though the technology didn't really take hold until the late 1990s.

GMR technology allows for data to be read from very compact disks. Here's a description from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, which doles out the Nobel Prizes:

"A hard disk stores information, such as music, in the form of microscopically small areas magnetized in different directions. The information is retrieved by a read-out head that scans the disk and registers the magnetic changes. The smaller and more compact the hard disk, the smaller and weaker the individual magnetic areas.

"More sensitive read-out heads are therefore required if information has to be packed more densely on a hard disk. A read-out head based on the GMR effect can convert very small magnetic changes into differences in electrical resistance and therefore into changes in the current emitted by the read-out head. The current is the signal from the read-out head and its different strengths represent ones and zeros."

More background about the discovery is available here.

Last year, the prize went to John Mather and George Smoot "for their discovery of the blackbody form and anisotropy of the cosmic microwave background radiation."

The real Nobel Prizes are being announced a week after the quirky Ig Nobel Prizes for weird science were announced at Harvard University.

Research into the mystery of wrinkles on bed sheets, the bottomless bowl of soup and the effect of Viagra on hamster jet lag dominated those awards.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Network World staff

Network World
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Deals on PC World

Deals on PC World


Latest News Articles


GGG Evaluation Team

Kathy Cassidy


First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni


For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Steph Mundell


The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.

Andrew Mitsi


The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.

Simon Harriott


My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.


Latest Jobs


Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?