Next time you turn on your VCR and you're swearing because you didn't have the foresight to learn Japanese and you can't remember which button does what, Orest G. Symko wants you to think digitally.
While Ray Stevens used to sing "Everything Is Beautiful," Symko's theme song might be "Everything Is Digital.""People are so busy using all that stuff that they haven't given much thought about how it actually works," said Symko, a University of Utah physics professor.
Symko wants you to know that the modern machines that have invaded your life - the VCRs, the compact disc players, even the price scanners at the supermarket - are all based on basic principles of physics.
Symko believes in science appreciation for the non-technical, just as music appreciation has extended harmony to the tuneless masses. On the U. campus, his Physics of the Hi-Fi is a popular liberal education class.
Now, Symko is remodeling his basic physics lecture into the digital age. He is scheduled to present a lecture at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Room 101 of the U.'s James C. Fletcher Building.
Digital technology has revolutionized the storage of information, all thanks to the those hard-working, often ignored principles of physics.
Take a VCR, for instance. Thanks to the magic of magnetism and a physics law as basic as that applied by a simple bar magnet, a videotape is coded with a fine powder of magnetic material. To store information, the tape is magnetized. Then to play it back, a device reverses the information and converts it to an electrical signal.
Then there is the concept of optics. The technology, based on quantum mechanics, was invented for other purposes but works well reading music digitally stored on a compact disc or a bar code on a package at the supermarket.
A compact disc is made up of a flat shiny surface imbedded with tiny bits, which represent digital numbers. A laser is used to read the information, as the reflection flashed by the arrangement of bits creates pulses. The pulses correspond to numbers, which translate back into stored information.
By using the laser, a high density of information can be crammed on a disc, Symko said. For example, 60 tracks on a compact disc would fit inside one regular record groove.
Symko isn't really expecting to turn out any physicists after his one-hour lecture. But he's hoping for a smile of physics appreciation, at least, next time you shove that tape of "America's Favorite Home Videos" into your VCR.