Computing Applications News track

News Track

  1. More Tech Dollars for Defense
  2. No Hands, No Break
  3. More Net = Less TV
  4. Brain Scan
  5. A Word to the Hip
  6. Smart Dresser
  7. Author
  8. Figures

While war might hurt the overall U.S. economy, homeland security could help boost the beleaguered U.S. tech industry in the form of million-, indeed, billion-dollar contracts in defense spending over the next two years. The Bush Administration plans to increase government spending on computers, software, and services to over $58 billion in FY03, up 17% from $49.8 billion in FY02. Such spending is expected to reach $59.6 billion in ’04. Moreover, federal spending on computer security could jump to $4.2 billion this year, up 56% from $2.7 billion last year. USA Today reports federal spending evidence can be seen in recent contracts such as Cray’s $62 million in supercomputing and service orders for what is believed to be defense use. Dell Computer sold 60,000 PCs to the U.S. Marine Corps last fall, and Unisys signed a $1 billion, seven-year deal with the Transportation Security Administration to improve security at 429 commercial airports.

“Sometimes you have to actually do the silly study to show the obvious.”
—David Strayer, associate professor of psychology, who led the study that determined driving while talking on the phone is dangerous

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No Hands, No Break

Drivers who use cell phones with hands-free devices are no more secure than those who hold the phone to their ears. A new survey indicates that drivers engaging in phone conversations suffer a form of tunnel vision that endangers themselves and others, regardless of whether the phone is physically held. Researchers who conducted the survey contend that legislation seeking to make mobile phone use safer by mandating the use of a hands-free device may be providing a false sense of security. Using a driving simulator and eye-tracking device, researchers were able to determine that when drivers are speaking on the phone their vision is impaired simply because what they may look at (billboards, road signs, brake lights) often does not sink in. It’s called a form of inattention blindness—a malady that does not affect drivers who listen to music and books on tape or talk with fellow passengers.

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More Net = Less TV

As if TV executives didn’t have enough headaches, now comes proof that the Internet is fast eroding TV viewing hours and emerging as a dominant source of information. The third annual UCLA Internet Report “Surveying the Digital Future” ( found a dramatic drop in TV viewing by Internet veterans, reports the San Jose Mercury News. Internet users watched 4.8 fewer hours of TV per week than non-users, and the decline in viewing hours grows more dramatic as Internet users gain experience. Although few view the Net as a compelling source of entertainment, over 60% of those surveyed ranked the Internet ahead of TV, radio, and newspapers as a source of information. “Just as radio was the victim when television evolved in the early 1950s, now television is becoming the casualty of increasing Internet use,” the survey concludes.

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Brain Scan

Scientists are turning to desktop printers in an effort to produce 3D tubes of living tissue and possibly entire organs. Instead of using a degradable scaffold and covering it with cells to produce tissue, U.S. scientists are modifying ink jet printers and using cells to create 3D structures. Although producing organs is not in the near future, many labs are already printing arrays of DNA, proteins, and cells. “Like printing with different colors, placing different types of cells in the ink cartridges should make it possible to recreate complex structures consisting of multiple cells,” reports New Scientist magazine. But before scientists can produce organs they will need to resolve how to create circulatory networks to provide oxygen and nutrients to cells in the structure.

“This could have the same kind of impact that Gutenberg’s press did.”
—Vladimir Mironov, head of the Medical University of South Carolina’s Shared Tissue Engineering Laboratory, on tissue and organ-producing printers

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A Word to the Hip

Movie studios and record labels are going to the source in their fight against illegal downloads—major U.S. corporations where much of the offending activity allegedly takes place. They are armed with a prepared packet of information and a clear threat: Stop your employees from stealing copyrighted materials or be sued. The Associated Press reports the Recording Industry Association of America and the Motion Picture Association of America are applying a new tactic on behalf of copyright owners by sending a six-page brochure with suggested corporate policies to Fortune 1000 firms. The material includes a sample memo to workers warning them against using company computers to download songs or movies, as well as the technical risks companies face from illegal downloads (including viruses and privacy breaches) and potential legal risks (including injunctions, damages, costs, and possible criminal sanctions).


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Smart Dresser

Military and civilian clothing and other wearable products will soon be composed of electrically conductive cloth called electrotextiles. The cloth is fashioned from synthetic or metallic fibers that can be linked to processors and batteries, reports the New York Times. Physicist Michael Shur predicts electronic functions will be designed into all kinds of clothing in the next decade and they will eventually be solar powered. Some early designs include a T-shirt equipped to monitor the wearer’s health; an MP3 player woven into a jacket and hood; a lightweight electronic blanket with interwoven stainless steel conductive fiber; and an antenna incorporated into a soldier’s uniform.

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UF1 Figure.

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