Radiations is a weekly electronic newsletter published by the Physics and Astronomy Department of Carleton College. The deadline for materials to be included in Radiations is 7:30 AM Monday of the week you would like the information to appear. Contact tfields@carleton.edu if you want to be added or removed from this mailing list.

Volume 19, Issue 21 (April 1, 2013)

Matt Adams Comps Talk

March 4, 2013
By Trenne Fields

Flipping Bits and Spinning Disks: The Physics of Computer Memory

Pictures, music, applications- everything on your computer or phone is encoded as millions or billions of individual binary digits, called bits. But how is all of this information physically stored? There is a wide array of cool digital storage technologies, and in my talk I will focus on the physics behind four of the most important for modern computers: magnetic hard drives, flash memory, and two kinds of temporary called SRAM and DRAM. Each of these uses different physics principles to store data, and each is specialized for a specific role in computer memory. Interestingly, it turns out that we've used all of these types of memory just to read and write this email!