Computing Applications

News Track

  1. A Future Space Odyssey
  2. Calculating DNA
  3. Rapid Tracking of diseases
  4. Hunting Meteorites
  5. "Millennium" Banished
  6. English dominates Web
  7. Top selling software
  8. The Human Face of E-Commerce
  9. Author

A growing circle of space and tourism industry veterans say leisure trips to the cosmos are just a few years away. More than a dozen startup companies, encouraged by the traveling public’s desire for new experiences and the technology needed to make space travel possible, are working to build rockets safe enough to carry paying passengers. A two-year-old Arlington, Va.-based travel company is selling a seat on a future flight for $98,000. Hilton, as well as Budget Suites of America, has looked into space hotels. One of the U.S.’s leading resort design firms—Wimberly, Allison Tong & Goo—drew up plans for its own 100-room space hotel it says could be built by 2017—complete with restaurant, observation deck, and recreational facilities. "The hotel side of this has to be thought through just as well as the engineering side," says one of the firm’s senior associates who envisions spacewalks, even driving ranges. "The worst thing that could happen is if you’re stuck in a tin can and it’s a terrible vacation."

"I think we’ll see over the next few decades that many of these ideas that were far-fetched a few decades ago will become reality."
Lou Dobbs, who left his $3 million-a-year job at CNN to launch, a space-related news Web site.

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Calculating DNA

DNA computers built from strands of synthetic DNA have been coaxed into performing relatively complex calculations, according to a report in Nature. After years of work, University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers made several of these short-lived chemical computers, each composed of about 100 trillion synthetic strands fastened to a piece of glass and covered with a thin sheet of gold. The DNA strands were coded to contain all possible solutions (16) to a problem and bathed repeatedly in different solutions of enzymes that interacted with the DNA to weed out wrong answers. The computer has no immediate practical applications but nudges the fledgling technology of DNA computing further along into the realm of practicality.

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Rapid Tracking of diseases

An electronic surveillance network proposed by the Clinton administration would help track the outbreak of infectious diseases, such as influenza and hepatitis C, and notify doctors how to treat them. The proposal, part of the fiscal 2001 budget, includes $65 million to establish the network, which would replace a patchwork system that relies mostly on phone calls and postcards to alert authorities to the spread of dangerous diseases. The proposed network would move doctors’ disease reports from, say, a city clinic to a state public health service to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta securely and instantaneously. By using this system, the CDC would then be able to alert doctors immediately that a strain of infection they’re treating doesn’t respond to a particular antibiotic.

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Hunting Meteorites

A metallic exploration robot able to make it’s own judgements and inferences about the rocks it encounters identified its first meteorite while searching Anartica ice fields, reports the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University. Nomad, the Institute’s 1,600-pound intelligent explorer (about the size of a Volkswagen Beetle) is the first of its kind, built with enough intelligence to sort out information from its sensors and choose the rocks composed of extraterrestrial material, a job normally done by humans experienced in meteorite detection. A gasoline-powered generator supplies the electricity for its computers, communications, scientific instruments, high-resolution digital camera and propulsion; each wheel, covered with metal-studded snow tires, is powered by a separate electric motor. When Nomad decides a rock is a meteorite, it radios the object’s exact location using coordinates calculated by the Global Positioning System. The $3.5 million project is sponsored by NASA’s Office of Space Science, which is interested in sending intelligent robot explorers to other planets.

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"Millennium" Banished

The term "millennium" tops the annual list of banished words compiled by Lake Superior State University. Other banned terms: "24/7"; "know what I’m sayin’?"; "road rage"; "first annual"; "cybrarian"; and "e-anything," as in e-commerce.

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English dominates Web

Almost 70% of the world’s Web traffic comes from the U.S.; Japan is second with 7%; and Germany follows with 5%, reports CNN. Spanish-language Web sites, one of the fastest growing Internet segments, make up less than 2%.

"A lot of governments fear American imperialism of all kinds, whether it is our food or our Internet. I think that people like McDonalds and they also like the Internet, so it’s kind of the government trying to control what people do."
—Esther Dyson, chair of EDventure Holdings

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Top selling software

  1. Who Wants to Be a Millionaire (Disney)
  2. Pokémon (Mattel Interactive)
  3. MicroProse Roller Coaster Tycoon (Hasbro Interactive)
  4. TurboTax Deluxe (Intuit)
  5. Pokémon Studio Red (Mattel Interactive)
  6. Age of Empires II: Age of Kings (Microsoft)
  7. Quake III Arena (Activision)
  8. TurboTax (Intuit)
  9. Barbie Generation Girl Gotta Groove (Mattel Interactive)
  10. Toy Story 2 Activity Center (Disney)

Source: PC Data, Dec. 1999

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The Human Face of E-Commerce

As more retailers sell big, bulky items like furniture, appliances, and electronic equipment on the Web, they increasingly depend on truck drivers to provide the crucial final link to the customer, putting new demands on trucking companies and their drivers, reports the Wall Street Journal. "We can invest heavily in Web design and promotion, but in the end it all comes down to the driver getting the furniture into the home," says Dave Barrus, director of logistics for

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