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News and Articles

Hard disk 'speed limit' found

If there is an article of faith in computer science, it's that everything can keep getting faster and faster.
But scientists say they've discovered an apparent speed limit that will restrict how quickly data can be written onto disks and then retrieved.
The good news: This limit is about 1,000 times faster than today's state-of-the-art data storage devices.
When information is stored on disks, minuscule regions that make up each bit of data are magnetized in one direction or its opposite, to represent a 0 or a 1. Rewriting data involves sending an electromagnetic pulse that reverses the spin of selected bits. Accelerate the pulse and you shorten the time needed to store or rewrite information.
But if the pulses come too quickly and intensely, the high energy involved makes some of the magnetic changes happen randomly instead of predictably and reliably, according to a group of researchers writing in Wednesday's edition of the journal Nature.
The scientists confirmed this problem by firing up the particle accelerator at Stanford University and blasting electrons at a piece of the magnetic material used to store computer data.
These pulses of energy traveled at nearly the speed of light, and lasted just 2.3 picoseconds. A picosecond is a millionth of a millionth of a second.
The researchers noticed that the magnetic patterns left behind were somewhat chaotic, an unacceptable outcome when it comes to storing precise bits of data.
The project was led by researchers at Stanford and included a scientist at the Landau Institute for Theoretical Physics in Moscow and engineers at disk-drive maker Seagate Technologies LLC.
The group was the first to examine the physics of magnetic data storage with a particle accelerator, according to two scientists who were not involved in the experiments, C.H. Back of Germany's University of Regensburg and Danilo Pescia of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology.
In an email interview, Pescia said the experiments were important in that they showed that the speed of magnetic recording -- which already clocks in at several billion bits, or gigabits, per second in the fastest hard drives -- can still get 1,000 times faster.
"In order to go beyond this limit, some completely new technology will be required, of which we do not know anything yet," Pescia wrote.
However, Seagate's chief technology officer, Mark Kryder, said the project had few real implications for the data-storage industry.
"Certainly we are not going to start packaging linear accelerators into hard disk drives, so the kinds of speeds achieved in these experiments would never be observed in an actual recording device," Kryder said. "It's not something that's going to impact anything we're contemplating in hard disk drives."


Scam Information

Police: German pair auction child on Internet for one euroBERLIN, Germany (Reuters) -- A German woman and a male friend face prosecution for human trafficking after they put the woman's daughter up for auction on the Internet at a starting price of one euro, about $1.20, authorities said Wednesday.
A photograph of the 8-year-old child was posted by the man, from the Bavarian town of Traunstein, who later told police he had placed the offer to test the online auction system.
The senior state prosecutor investigating the case said both the man, 35, and mother, 41, faced charges of attempted child trafficking.
"Three people made offers for the child and the bidding price reached 25.50 euros [$30.25] before the item was removed after between three to four hours by the company's security," he said.
Like other countries in western Europe, Germany has seen a surge in human trafficking in recent years as well as a number of high-profile child pornography cases often connected with the Internet.

Thought of the Week

Next time you hit the grocery store, shop around for the best buys that
support your own local environment. Check labels and signs of the
produce you purchase and make an effort to buy locally grown products.
Buying locally means less energy expended to bring food to your table,
cutting down on everything from air pollution to the burning of fossil
fuels from trucking in cargo. Buying locally also means fresher fruits
and vegetables that are healthier for your body and tastier to your
taste buds. Fruits and veggies shipped from abroad are usually
harvested at least two full weeks before they are ripe so that they
don�t go rotten during their long voyages on planes and in crates
before arriving to your grocer.

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