林中散步

从阿姆斯特丹往东一个半小时,Marc的父母的家。

五一时候,Alex和我们一起从拉萨骑到加德满都。一个月的时间天天在一块,他是很好玩的人。而且也是我们三个当中身体最好的,虽然他已经将近60了。回来后,我和marc到今天膝盖还有些疼,只有alex,据说是回来后没两天就又开始参加长跑比赛了。

他的家在荷兰德国边境的森林边上。一早上起来,吃完一顿非常复杂大小杯盘足有几十种的早餐后,我们一起去森林里散步。

下着雨,打着雨伞,森林小道上没什么人。我们往荷兰本地最高的山峰的顶部爬去,这是Alex去西藏前为了高原骑车每天刻苦训练的山。据说,海拔足足有70米。比起我和Marc训练的海拔几乎90米的佘山,整整低了20米。这样的山,果然是非常好的为了爬过青藏高原上不过5、6000米的山,至少在心理上的训练。好歹都是山,而且还都是本国本地最高的山。

小道边上,一个当地农民仔细盯着一群羊的屁股看,据说,欧洲正在闹羊瘟,而检查羊瘟的办法就是检查羊屁股。其中一只羊看上去有些萎靡。也许是病了。

森林的一条小道,修得很整齐。这条小道走到底,就是当年纳粹德国建的一个集中营的大门口。雨里的味道很新鲜,不过我们从另一条满是落叶的小道走开了。

几百米过去,一个小山坳里,林子中一个露天的小剧场,说是可以容纳3000人。希腊或者说罗马式的半圆剧场,座椅一圈圈地绕着,最下方是个长满草的小平台,就是戏台。

我们说,“去那个戏台演个话剧怎么样,这儿有三个观众呢。”

她从一排排的座椅上爬下去,再登到戏台上。

雨越下越大。她拿着把红蓝白相间的大雨伞,在雨里晃了晃,她从雨伞下钻出来,向我们远远地挥了挥手。

“Sing a song,” Alex说。

她想了想,“不会。”她在雨里又站了会,又挥了挥手,说, “Hello”

音效很好,这么个林子中的简陋剧场。

她站在下面的戏台中,我们站在剧场顶的边上。都不说话。

一片宁静,除了小雨声落在伞上。这宁静穿透到心脏里去,湿润的冷空气浸满了肺,一点点地把上海的浊气换了出来。

t2

amsterdam

到了阿姆斯特丹几天了。每天出去转悠转悠,见些人,吃个饭,时不时在路边的小咖啡馆里坐着,喝杯咖啡。

天气比较古怪。一天下来,每个小时里总有几阵小雨,小雨过后,天空也许忽然就放晴,阳光从黑的灰的云层里透出,照在大大小小的运河和水边几百年的砖楼上。光线变幻,也许每天生活在这样的变化莫测的光线里,才有伦勃朗,vermeer,梵高这样的喜欢用光线表达的画家。

不过阿姆斯特丹毕竟从纬度来说比哈尔滨还北些,虽然因为墨西哥湾暖流,天气相对柔和,总是不像南方或者热带岛屿上那样,各种各样的颜色。也许也是这样,梵高在搬去法国后,画作开始变得色彩鲜艳。

当然,也许也因为他那时候色弱的毛病越加严重了?谁知道。有些事,可能有各种各样的因由,谁知道是这只蝴蝶还是那只蝴蝶扇动了翅膀。

在个小酒馆里,和Marc还有他的三个朋友在晚饭前喝了点开胃的啤酒。荷兰人的开胃酒,就是在一个小时不到里,每人都喝下了4大杯的啤酒。如果这几个人开始认真地喝酒庆祝之类的,估计他们一个小时里能喝下四大桶。

他们的生活都过得挺闲适。其中一人住的一栋小楼房,就在酒吧斜对面,运河边上,说是阿姆斯特丹最古老的小楼之一,三层,小小的,加在两边五层的大些的楼房中。一个卧室,一个客厅和厨房,还有楼顶小小的阁楼,是书房。16世纪的房子,大约是中国的明代。对于普通人来说,欧洲的历史直接就在日常生活里,周围的砖石和河流。中国的历史却只在书籍和故事里。

住的酒店就在市中心的广场。因此,也就在红灯区的边上。夜晚时候,走过去,两分钟路,运河边的古老楼房,粉红灯光的玻璃橱窗里,各个年龄各个种族姿色各异的女人们,据说也有些易装的男人,在招揽着生意。到处都是卖大麻食品和烟的Coffee Shop。没有人太把它们当回事,都只是人性的一部分。把一些包裹在某些社会外层的禁忌都给干干净净地剥去后,其实在下面的,依然是人,而且还是挺可爱的人。

生活在这儿比较轻松。没有人太在乎你是狗还是人。

雨下着,石头路面反射着偶尔透过的阳光,她背着个包,回过头,笑着,“我喜欢这儿。”

me on dam square

reflection

Marc in a little bar

台风

一天的时间,雨忽大忽小,说是上海10年来最大的台风来了。于是飞机停飞,道路堵塞,学生放假。土豆也是一样,家有小孩的或者其他不便的,明天也就不用来办公室,在家里工作就可以了。一切都以email和虚拟数据传递所有信息的土豆,其实在哪儿工作都一样。只不过,有些时候一堆人聚在一起,不容易得自闭症些。

上海也是难得有场台风,就像北京难得有场稍微大点的雪就全城瘫痪一样,上海的台风让这个城市都带些欢喜地忙乱。福建或者年年恨不得都在台风眼里过日子的温州,这样的台风,七级,简直就像是挠痒痒,什么都不是。

希望今晚是场暴雨。在电闪雷鸣,暴雨滂沱的夜里,我容易睡一场很沉的觉。

Wow. Just imagine.

Reshaping the Architecture of Memory
Jim Wilson/The New York Times

Article Tools Sponsored By
By JOHN MARKOFF
Published: September 11, 2007

SAN JOSE, Calif. — The ability to cram more data into less space on a memory chip or a hard drive has been the crucial force propelling consumer electronics companies to make ever smaller devices.

Stuart S. P. Parkin, a physicist, is developing “racetrack memory,” a technology that makes it possible to read and write data far faster than is possible with existing storage devices.

It shrank the mainframe computer to fit on the desktop, shrank it again to fit on our laps and again to fit into our shirt pockets.

Now, if an idea that Stuart S. P. Parkin is kicking around in an I.B.M. lab here is on the money, electronic devices could hold 10 to 100 times the data in the same amount of space. That means the iPod that today can hold up to 200 hours of video could store every single TV program broadcast during a week on 120 channels.

The tech world, obsessed with data density, is taking notice because Mr. Parkin has done it before. An I.B.M. research fellow largely unknown outside a small fraternity of physicists, Mr. Parkin puttered for two years in a lab in the early 1990s, trying to find a way to commercialize an odd magnetic effect of quantum mechanics he had observed at supercold temperatures. With the help of a research assistant, he was able to alter the magnetic state of tiny areas of a magnetic data storage disc, making it possible to store and retrieve information in a smaller amount of space. The huge increases in digital storage made possible by giant magnetoresistance, or GMR, made consumer audio and video iPods, as well as Google-style data centers, a reality.

Mr. Parkin thinks he is poised to bring about another breakthrough that could increase the amount of data stored on a chip or a hard drive by a factor of a hundred. If he proves successful in his quest, he will create a “universal” computer memory, one that can potentially replace dynamic random access memory, or DRAM, and flash memory chips, and even make a “disk drive on a chip” possible.

It could begin to replace flash memory in three to five years, scientists say. Not only would it allow every consumer to carry data equivalent to a college library on small portable devices, but a tenfold or hundredfold increase in memory would be disruptive enough to existing storage technologies that it would undoubtedly unleash the creativity of engineers who would develop totally new entertainment, communication and information products.

Currently the flash storage chip business is exploding. Used as storage in digital cameras, cellphones and PCs, the commercially available flash drives with multiple memory chips store up to 64 gigabytes of data. Capacity is expected to reach about 50 gigabytes on a single chip in the next half-decade.

However, flash memory has an Achilles’ heel. Although it can read data quickly, it is very slow at storing it. That has led the industry on a frantic hunt for alternative storage technologies that might unseat flash.

Mr. Parkin’s new approach, referred to as “racetrack memory,” could outpace both solid-state flash memory chips as well as computer hard disks, making it a technology that could transform not only the storage business but the entire computing industry.

“Finally, after all these years, we’re reaching fundamental physics limits,” he said. “Racetrack says we’re going to break those scaling rules by going into the third dimension.”

His idea is to stand billions of ultrafine wire loops around the edge of a silicon chip — hence the name racetrack — and use electric current to slide infinitesimally small magnets up and down along each of the wires to be read and written as digital ones and zeros.

His research group is able to slide the tiny magnets along notched nanowires at speeds greater than 100 meters a second. Since the tiny magnetic domains have to travel only submolecular distances, it is possible to read and write magnetic regions with different polarization as quickly as a single nanosecond, or one billionth of a second — far faster than existing storage technologies.

If the racetrack idea can be made commercial, he will have done what has so far proved impossible — to take microelectronics completely into the third dimension and thus explode the two-dimensional limits of Moore’s Law, the 1965 observation by Gordon E. Moore, a co-founder of Intel, that decrees that the number of transistors on a silicon chip doubles roughly every 18 months.

Just as with Mr. Parkin’s earlier work in GMR, there is no shortage of skeptics at this point.

Giant storage companies like Seagate Technology are starting to turn toward flash to create a generation of hybrid storage systems that combine silicon and rotating disk technologies for speed and capacity. But Seagate is still looking in the two-dimensional realm for future advances.

“There are a lot of neat technologies, but you have to be able to make them cost-effectively,” said Bill Watkins, Seagate’s chief executive.

So far, the racetrack idea is far from the Best Buy shelves and it is very much still in Mr. Parkin’s laboratory here. His track record, however, suggests that the storage industry might do well to take notice of the implications of his novel nanowire-based storage system in the not too distant future.

“Stuart marches to a little bit of a different drummer, but that’s what it takes to have enough courage to go off the beaten path,” said James S. Harris, an electrical engineering professor at Stanford University and co-director of the I.B.M.-Stanford Spintronic Science and Applications Center.

A visit to Mr. Parkin’s crowded office reveals him to be a 51-year-old British-American scientist for whom the term hyperactive is a modest understatement at best. During interviews he is constantly in motion. When he speaks publicly at scientific gatherings, his longtime technology assistant, Kevin Roche, is careful to see that Mr. Parkin empties the change from his pockets, lest he distract his audience with the constant jingling of coins and keys.

Today, a number of industry analysts think there are important parallels between Mr. Parkin’s earlier GMR research and his new search for racetrack materials.

“We’re on the verge of exciting new memory architectures, and his is one of the leading candidates,” said Richard Doherty, director of the Envisioneering Group, a computing and consumer electronics consulting firm based in Seaford, N.Y.

Mr. Parkin said he had recently shifted his focus and now thought that his racetracks might be competitive with other storage technologies even if they were laid horizontally on a silicon chip.

I.B.M. executives are cautious about the timing of the commercial introduction of the technology. But ultimately, the technology may have even more dramatic implications than just smaller music players or wristwatch TVs, said Mark Dean, vice president for systems at I.B.M. Research.

“Something along these lines will be very disruptive,” he said. “It will not only change the way we look at storage, but it could change the way we look at processing information. We’re moving into a world that is more data-centric than computing-centric.”

This is just a hint, but it suggests that I.B.M. may think that racetrack memory could blur the line between storage and computing, providing a key to a new way to search for data, as well as store and retrieve data.

And if it is, Mr. Parkin’s experimental physics lab will have transformed the computing world yet again.

鼓浪屿上

周末回趟福州。妈妈从美国来又到巴厘岛再回到福州,下周就回去了。我们来送送她。

顺便,我们想,干脆先从上海飞厦门,再从厦门去福州。她之前没有来过厦门。海边的城市,带点海水的腥味,一年四季,总是绿的。虽然待久了可能有些单调,就像我的福州一样。不过,在上海的钢筋混凝土的峡谷和车的河流里待久了,安静地在绿色的厦门待个一天,想想还是很不错。

上海飞到福州已经是夜里11点多。住在鼓浪屿上。从机场到鼓浪屿的轮渡码头倒是不远,不过,等着凌晨的轮渡,却等了大半个小时。我坐在轮渡大厅的绿漆的钢圆盘椅上,读Dylan on Dylan, Bob Dylan过去40年的访谈合集。偶尔抬头,看着她在大厅里晃来晃去,东张西望。凌晨的海边的轮渡大厅,零零落落地十几个人。几个小混混半躺在长椅上,挽着袖子,低声说着话。卖零食的小店的售货员最后卖给我们个5块钱的菠萝盘,开始收拾大小杯盘,拉上卷帘门。其它的人,似乎都是鼓浪屿的居民,陆续着也慢慢有了几十个人,把大厅填个半满。

到鼓浪屿很近。10分钟。我们在岛上的旅馆主人,Michael,带着条狗和个帮手的小孩,已经在码头上等着。夜百合,Night Lily,说是岛上比较雅致的家庭旅馆。我们早过了背着包混住青年旅馆的年龄。

狗在前面跑着,帮手的小孩一边被狗拽着到处走,时不时这只小公狗在个电线杆边停下要撒尿标下势力范围的时候,拽它一把,往前,然后它就蹦着去找下一个电线杆。虽然已经是夜里12点多了,偶尔几个人走过,都低声说着话。毕竟是中国的某地,难得。

岛上很安静。谁都知道,鼓浪屿上禁止所有汽车和电动车辆。

夜百合在个改造过的三层老楼里,说不好是什么样的风格。走廊在每层的房间外,是典型的民居。不过,楼高很高,一层的大概有四米。比较英式。外楼用了些花岗岩。因为半倚着山坡建的,另外有个侧梯,从楼的一侧上去,是二楼和三楼。三楼顶一个很大平台,望出去,就是对面的厦门城区。夜里,灯火通明。房间都仔细改造过,半现代半传统地混着,也还不错。没装空调,头顶吊顶的风扇转着,吹着我们房间的大床上悬着的蚊帐飘着。还好,似乎没有蚊子。这几乎只是摆设用的蚊帐,下摆在风里摇着,几十个军团的蚊子都能进来。

早上醒来,在楼顶的天台上用早饭。咖啡,pancake,炒蛋,一杯冰橙汁。可惜我们起来的有点晚了,10点,有些晃眼的热。

懒得出门。在我们一楼的房间外坐着,院子里,草茂密地长着,头顶一棵粗大的老藤横过,挡住阳光,也爬满半个墙面。偶尔一阵小风,今年没结过果的老龙眼树的的枝叶晃动几下。风里带些花果的香。

她读着三联,我写着blog。

虽然是周末,几十米开外的学校里,偶尔上下课的铃声响过。远远地似乎有人在练琴。

我们运气不错,那是听上去还挺流畅的隐隐的琴声。