Technicalities

Tune in tomorrow

Laptop PCs have proved their functionality over the years as useful mobile tools, desktop replacement computers and, occasionally, high-tech doorstops. Now they've moved into the avant-garde of music. The Princeton Laptop Orchestra ' or PLOrk as its members call it ' debuted in early 2006 and performed recently in Washington. PLOrk uses laptop PCs connected to multichannel speakers and various control devices, such as keyboards, graphics tablets and sensors, according to its Web site, at plork.cs.princeton.edu. The ensemble often performs original music written by music professors and graduate students, with PLOrk members arrayed on the stage not only playing music but also sometimes altering the design and sound of their instruments, coding software on the spot. It might not be much to look at ' Princeton music professor Dan Truman, one of PLOrk's co-founders, wrote on the site that people often say that 'as far as I could tell, they were all just checking their e-mail.' But the sound, after all, is the story.

Quantum shrink

Data storage could soon be getting smaller while data retrieval gets faster. In a recent edition of the British journal Nature Materials, Albert Fert writes about spintronics, which taps into the quantum spin state of electrons. He writes that magnetic random access memory (MRAM) could combine a hard drive and computer chip into one, expanding storage a hundred-fold while increasing read-write speeds. Fert recently shared the Nobel Prize in physics with Germany's Peter Gruenberg for discovering giant mangetoresistance, the principle that makes iPods and BlackBerrys possible.

About the Author

Kevin McCaney is editor of Defense Systems. Follow him on Twitter: @KevinMcCaney.

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