Even though the gap continues to narrow between U.S. high school boys and girls in math and science, girls make up a smaller percentage of students in computer science classes, reports the American Association of University Women (AAUW). "Gender Gaps: Where Schools Still Fail Our Children," is the first study to document the enrollment of girls in U.S. high school computer sciences and the courses they choose. For example, during the past six years, more girls have enrolled in algebra, geometry, precalculus, trigonometry, and calculus, but have generally taken lower-end computer courses, such as data entry and word processing. The U.S. Department of Education acknowledges the problem but predicts the gap will prove temporary, judging by the number of girls becoming proficient with numbers.
"You speak English, but you're not American, so people are going to like you."
Esther Dyson, telling Irish high-tech firms at a Dublin conference why she believes they will thrive in the electronic commerce sector.
A controversial portable audio device capable of playing songs downloaded from the Net has record executives increasingly worried over the related threat of Internet music piracy. The Rio, launched by computer-peripherals maker Diamond Multimedia Systems, employs a new digital audio standard called MP3 that squeezes sound files down to less than 10% of their original size. That means you can copy a song off a CD onto your hard drive and then transmit the song over a standard Internet connection in about 20 minutes (the same uncompressed song takes more than three hours). It costs about $200.
A robotic dispensing system capable of a wide range of pharmacist's duties was successfully tested at the St. Boniface Hospital and Research Center in Winnipeg, Canada. The $3 million machine, called the Automated Pharmacy Admixture System (APAS), uses a robotic arm to select vials of drugs to be mixed with various solutions. It also checks orders, looks up patient histories, and queries adverse drug interactions with known prescriptions, says APAS's developer. The APAS will cut down on dispensing errors, ensure the purity of solutions, work much faster than human pharmacists, and spare pharmacists the risks of handling toxic chemicals used in such treatments as cancer chemotherapy.
By the end of the year 2.2 million U.S. households will have broadband Internet connections, predicts Forrester Research, a high-tech consultancy in Cambridge, Mass. Some 2 million of these households will be using special modems designed to work with their cable television systems. Within four years, Forrester says, one in four online homes will have broadband access, providing an "always-on" capability and speeds at least one hundred times faster than today's dial-up modems.
A project to harness the idle processing power of thousands of desktop PCs to help search for intelligent life in the universe is taking place at the University of California, Berkeley. Originally scheduled to begin operations in 1998, funding and hardware problems curtailed the SETI@home project, which is now rescheduled to launch in April. Computer users enrolled in the project install a special screensaver whose software kicks in when their computers are idle and analyzes radio frequency spectrum data captured by the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico. The analysis searches for a signal that may reveal the existence of intelligent life somewhere out there. The project team estimates that once 50,000 PCs are enrolled, SETI@home will rival other similar searches for extraterrestrial intelligence programs that are looking for signals from space. The SETI@home Web page is setiahome. ssl.berkeley.edu.
Software that allows picture framers and their customers to sample how art will look when framed in various ways is being used in Canada, reports the Vancouver Sun. The framing software, developed by Toronto-based Visionworks Software, runs on Windows or Macintosh and works as follows: After scanning art, the user chooses from the program's more than 10,000 digital frames, adding mats, lines, fillets, and an endless amount of colors to generate a perfect match on screen before the actual work is done. The next step involves going to the customers' homes, shooting wall space, and using the program to show them how the art will look in the place they intend to hang it.
It would have been impossible to test for the kind of bugs that slowed a $5.5 million network project for a school district in Texas. During a routine installation inspection, a Southwestern Bell crew opened one of the 156 fiber-optic cable boxes and found that crickets had invaded it, destroying some of the fiber. The crew ultimately found some 20 damage boxes. A Texas A&M University entomologist explains: Crickets naturally follow light, so any light shining through holes in the fiber box would have lured the crickets. As the crickets followed the light, they dropped into the small boxes, unable to escape, and were forced to eat whatever they could. Other factors contributed to the cricket infestation, including a drought in North Texas that increased the cricket population, and new construction, which disturbed the crickets' natural habitat. Cost of cricket-munching damage: $64,740.
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