Hand-held bioimpedance device analyzes body fat
No more uncomfortable skin pinching, hard-to-get-to water tanks, or other awkward methods of measuring body fat. Omron Healthcare's (Nevada, IL) new Body Logic, a hand-held analyzer, determines body fat with the press of a button by using bioimpedance technology. A reading takes just seven seconds, and the analyzer travels with you as needed. The 1-lb, battery-operated device, roughly the size of a paperback book, has two grips on either end. Electrodes near the grips send an imperceptible current to the hands to measure the resistance the body gives off as the current flows through it. Because fat tissue has little or no electrical conductivity, the bioelectrical impedance method allows the analyzer to determine the ratio of fat to other tissues. A user's vital statistics can be programmed into the analyzer, using three buttons on the center panel, for instant recall each time a measurement is taken. Up to nine personal profiles permit shared use. List price is $99. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pacific island weather may hold clues to global climate change
A team of researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy's national laboratories in New Mexico traveled 6,500 miles recently to a remote Pacific island to better understand, in part, why the American Southwest has had such a warm, dry winter and why the Great Lakes states are getting so much snow. The scientists took with them an atmospheric measurement station built and tested at Sandia National Laboratories (Albuquerque, NM). The station, called an Atmospheric Radiation and Cloud Station (ARCS), is gathering information about clouds and sunlight from the tiny Pacific island of Nauru, located 1,800 miles northeast of Australia. The station will operate for at least 10 years. Installing a station on Nauru is a milestone in a large DOE program that seeks to understand how sunlight and infrared radiation interact with clouds and, in particular, whether varying levels of atmospheric moisture could permanently influence Earth's heat budget. The location is particularly significant because the island is situated on the edge of what climatologists call the "warm pool." The region's unusually warm ocean waters act as a sort of cloud factory, supplying heat and moisture to the atmosphere above, resulting in the formation of high-altitude clouds that disperse over the entire region. During a La Niña, stronger trade winds blow this warm pool toward Indonesia. In the U.S. the resulting shift in jet stream patterns means snow-laden winter storms can miss the Rocky Mountain states and dump on the Upper Midwest, for instance. By watching a decade of weather develop from the edge of the warm pools, says Sandia Integration Manager Mark Ivey, researchers hope to shed light on the role of clouds in such phenomena. E-mail email@example.com.
Software deciphers genomes of higher organisms
Understanding the genomes of key microorganisms may increase understanding of human genetics because lower organisms have some genes that correspond to their human counterparts. Moreover, scientists can design new drugs based on knowledge of disease-causing bacteria. The ability to make this possible stems from a software program, called GeneMark, that uses probabilistic mathematical models to predict the locations of genes on a strand of DNA. Mark Borodovsky, a professor of biology at the Georgia Institute of Technology, developed the software about seven years ago to decode lower-organism genes. However, his latest version, GeneMark.hmm, can make the more sophisticated predictions for the genomes of eukaryotic, or higher-level, organisms. To create this program, Borodovsky employed Hidden Markov Models, or HMMs. A recent grant from the National Institutes of Health will help make the program responsive to new boundaries. A test of the program has demonstrated its state-of-the-art accuracy, Borodovsky reports. When tested against current means of finding eukaryotic genes, the new version performed at least as well as the best current methods. It is already being used to annotate parts of humans, nemotodes, fruit flies, and a plant in the mustard family. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Researchers 'crack' Internet, computer security
Duke University (Durham, NC) computer science researchers have discovered that, using an experimental computer, they could "crack" in under four hours the encryption that protects credit-card account numbers on the Internet. With the same equipment and the "brute force" technique, Gershon Kedem, associate computer science professor, and graduate student Yuriko Ishihara compromised many of the more commonplace passwords that guard UNIX-based computer networks. The pair's experimental break-ins involved a powerful graphic computer called PixelFlow, designed by computer scientists at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. "The fact that such a machine--while itself experimental, but not designed to decipher secret codes--could so easily penetrate popular security systems underscores the vulnerability of current computer encryption standards," Kedem says. The researchers proved the 40-bit key, a standard used to comply with U.S. export restrictions, is exposed to more than government sleuthing by subjecting the key to an attack with the massively parallel computer. The 18-board PixelFlow configuration satisfies the requirements of this type of brute force cryptoanalysis. It harnesses 147,456 separate processing units, each of which executes the same set of instructions at the same time. E-mail Monte.email@example.com.
Mario to become a 'back-seat' minivan driver
Visteon Automotive Systems (Dearborn, MI) wants its customers to play games--Super Mario and Donkey Kong, to be exact. Visteon formed a partnership with Nintendo of America to market the company's new Rear Seat Entertainment System. The system allows children in the back seat to play video games or watch their favorite movies. "Nintendo is an ideal partner for this type of technology, which we consider an exciting innovation in mobile electronics," says Kevin Singer, marketing manager for Visteon's Global Aftermarket Operations. "Nintendo has built an extremely popular and respected brand name in the entertainment industry, and this alliance will strengthen the exposure and recognition of our rear-seat system." Singer notes that the Visteon system has numerous advantages over similar systems in the market, including fit and finish, a warranty identical to a new vehicle warranty, an integrated console design to deter theft, and a competitive price. The system will initially be available as an option on Ford Windstar and Mercury Villager minivans beginning in April. FAX Cheryl Eberwein at (313) 845-9111.
Medical images to move on the Internet using Java
A computer scientist at Washington University (St. Louis) has adapted a hot programming language of the Internet and applied it to a burgeoning revolution in medicine--teleradiology. Douglas C. Schmidt, associate professor of computer science, used the Java programming language and Netscape and Internet Explorer browsers to perform medical imaging tasks, moving medicine more deeply into the virtual world. Electronic radiology refers to the conversion from film-based technology to digital-image acquisition, transmission, storage, and display on CRTs. Teleradiology involves the transmission and examination of images and x-rays by specialists located elsewhere in a building or miles apart. Schmidt has named his electronic medical imaging system MedJava. He has tested its performance in transmitting 8-bit images through eight different imaging filters. He then benchmarked MedJava against a popular image-viewing application called xv, which runs C and C++ languages. Both applications were tested on an ultra-fast switching network. As Schmidt expected, xv had an edge over MedJava in speed and image quality, but, he says, MedJava performed far better than expected with good, distinctive images and decent speed. And, Schmidt adds, MedJava has an advantage of flexibility and portability over xv. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Videophone opens door to business opportunities for the deaf
Motion Media Technology (Bristol, UK) has announced, in conjunction with Telecommunications for the Deaf, a project called SignWorks. As a result, deaf people will be able to sign language on the telephone, giving them a way to conduct daily business no matter where they are. To achieve this, the system would place Motion Media's high-resolution mm220 videophone, a stand-alone ISDN device, in deaf associations and at companies with deaf staff. The project team also is testing the videophone for "remote interpreting," where a business meeting could be conducted between a deaf person and one with normal hearing. The communications system is said to be as easy to use as a standard telephone. It incorporates two-way data sharing, allowing users to view and work with each other's PC documents and files. The system resembles a traditional business telephone and includes a built-in camera, microphone, and video screen. FAX Ashley Martin at +44 1454 313678.
Video conferencing system works on standard TV and phone lines
If you visited the Innomedia booth at January's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, you would have been treated to face-to-face, full-motion video conversations with distant friends, family, and colleagues--without using your PC. The InfoView video conferencing system turns ordinary TVs into sophisticated, high-quality video telephones that work with regular phone lines. It lets you see the face and the body language of people you call from home or the office. All you do is turn on the TV and the InfoView video camera, dial the desired number, and press the pound key to active InfoView's on-screen menu. Then you press a number on your telephone keypad to see your connecting party simultaneously on a split screen. If you want to view only your connecting party, simply press the appropriate code on the phone keypad and your own image disappears. The system provides optimum image clarity and refresh rate, and it maintains the best possible video image quality. You can manually tune the system to adjust the video to your preference by pressing a combination of phone keys. The camera has remote zoom, pan, and tilt capabilities for both local and remote operations, again controlled through the telephone keypad. It sells for about $350. E-mail email@example.com.