On any given Sunday, Brian Lawrence might be playing softball or golf or restoring an old car. He might also be in his basement brewing up the occasional batch of beer. We hope his beer is good and that his golf game has more birdies than bogeys. And why should we care? It turns out Brian Lawrence is the brain behind the future of digital media storage. One of the brains at least.
The latest technology buzz is all about holographic storage, where one disc holds the equivalent of 500 CDs. More than 4,000 times the information that the human brain retains in a lifetime. No word on whether the comparison brain belongs to someone like Brian Lawrence or some lesser functioning pea-brain such as – well several names come to mind but this is where discretion and certain ten foot pole come in handy.
So exactly how do they accomplish this larger storage capacity? While there are scientific explanations galore, here’s a simpler version. It’s a bit like filling up a large jar. So you put some large rocks in the jar until it’s full. Someone else comes along and adds pebbles. You had no idea there was so much room. Someone else adds sand. And finally, someone else comes along and adds water. It’s all a matter of how you use the space.
In the case of the holographic storage model, the fillings are ones and zeroes in beams of light that get bent at various angles to form patterns. They’re layered and stacked up in that jar, except the jar is a plastic material that interacts with the light. In this way they store light years of information in a small space. Okay, if you’re a scientist you take issue with that because a light year is really a distance measure. We get that. But we enjoy taking occasional creative license in the name of fun. Read about the science here