Noble Prize For Physics Rewards Most Practical Magic
It's pretty amazing that you can buy a 500 gigabyte hard disk for about a hundred bucks these days. That's half a terabyte of storage for a C note! Twenty years ago, that kind of storage was a whole room of equipment in a dedicated facility with raised flooring, expensive air-conditioning and fire suppression equipment - millions of dollars. Thank Albert Fert and Peter Grünberg for the amazing economies of modern hard disk storage.
Today, the Nobel Prize in Physics was bestowed on the two gentlemen for their work in 1988 to discover and define the fundamental physics that allowed for the radical miniaturization and cost reduction in hard disk based data storage. In 1988 the Frenchman Albert Fert and the German Peter Grünberg each independently discovered a totally new physical effect – Giant Magnetoresistance or GMR. 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. It took nine years before the GMR effect was suitably industrialized and launched, but immediately became the standard technology for commercial hard disks. This may not be as lofty a discovery as the quantum physics of Einstein or world shaking as Fermi's work, but at a practical level this is the most noble work of physics. I'm delighted to see the Nobel Prize committee reward this achievement.
Congratulations and thank you Monsieur Fert and Herr Grünberg.