China serves as world's largest Internet market

A Chinese research firm recently announced that China has surpassed the United States as the world's largest Internet market based on number of users, United Press International reports. Beijing-based BDA said that data from the China Internet Network Information Center suggests that China had an Internet population of 210 million at the end of 2007, compared to 216 million in the United States. In a company statement, BDA's chief media analyst said that, "based on these sources and the assumption that these markets have continued to grow in 2008 to date at the same rates that they grew in 2007, we can conclude that China has by now comfortably surpassed the United States as the world's largest Internet population." Meanwhile, BDA estimated revenues from China's online games sector totaled $1.88 billion last year (UPI, 4/21/08).

Surgeon creates portable ultrasound for telemedicine

A Detroit trauma surgeon has developed a portable ultrasound machine that can scan body parts and then transmit the images via satellite to medical specialists, the Detroit News reports. Scott Dulchavsky developed the 10-pound tool to enable astronauts to conduct their own scans and send the images back to earth for physicians to view. The images are rendered by bouncing sound waves off internal body parts. Most of Dulchavsky's current research also takes place in NASA's anti-gravity aircraft, which allows him to see how the machine works in weightless environments. Dulchavsky guides the subjects via video link on how to use the ultrasound to examine broken bones and collapsed lungs. Meanwhile, Dulchavsky also is conducting research in rural Madagascar, where a team of researchers plans to install ultrasound machines and train personnel to use them to boost prenatal care. Moreover, Dulchavsky plans to attend the Olympic Games in China to continue to examine the use of the ultrasound tool to monitor athletes' health and is testing the tool on Mount Everest to gauge its performance in high altitudes (Rogers, Detroit News, 4/19/08).

U.S. scientists create polymer-protein hybrid technology

University of California-Berkeley researchers have created a strategy for forming hybrid materials from synthetic polymers and proteins, United Press International reports. As detailed in the journal Angewandte Chemie, the scientists, Aaron Esser-Kahn and Matthew Francis, say they have fused the specific biological functions of proteins with the advantageous bulk and processing properties of plastics, yeilding polymer-protein hybrid materials that may be of use in the manufacture of sensors, nanomachine parts or drug-delivery systems. Specifically, the scientists note that they synthesized a green-fluorescing biodegradable gel that responds to changes in pH value and temperature. Although previous processes for the production of hybrid materials depended on very specific coupling techniques that could not be used for some protein side-chains, according to the authors, the new method is broadly applicable because can apply to any protein (UPI, 4/22/08).

Google, Milwaukee transit team for Web tool

The Milwaukee County Transit System and Google have teamed up to help travelers detail the best trips throughout the region, The Business Journal of Milwaukee reports. By visiting or, patrons of the metro transit agency can now go to Google's free trip planner to determine the best routes and times to travel. Specifically, users can type in a starting point and destination, as well as the desired date and time of a trip; routes, schedules and transfer information then will appear on screen. In addition, motorists who use the trip planner for driving routes within the bus agency's service area now will see public transit options displayed as an alternative to road directions. Meanwhile, the Chicago Transit Authority earlier this month also signed up with the Google travel service (The Business Journal of Milwaukee, 4/22/08).

NASA tech might be used for Web gaming

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) says that educators may soon be able to use computer-simulation games that employ space age technologies, United Press International reports. NASA on Monday hosted a workshop to present its concept of delivering NASA content through a Massively Multi-player Online (MMO) educational game to interested development partners. Designed to enhance learning in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), the game aims to draw players into a synthetic environment that officials say can serve as a powerful "hands-on" tool for teaching a range of complex subjects. Noting the game will likely appeal most to teens and college students, NASA officials say that the agency "will continue to pursue innovative strategies to encourage students to improve their interest and performance in STEM and related careers," adding that "the use of online educational games can capture student interest in NASA's missions and science" (UPI, 4/21/08).

Microsoft grants support genomic health IT projects

Microsoft has awarded $850,000 in grants to six health information technology (IT) projects, most of which are related to genome research, Health Data Management reports. Awarded through Microsoft's Computational Challenges of Genome Wide Association Studies Program, the grants will enable Columbia University to develop advanced informatics methods to covert raw health data into usable research information; the National Institutes of Health to identify genes that are relevant to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Parkinson's disease and other neurological disorders; and Purdue University to create a software and data management system that can aid the prediction and prevention of adverse drug events and provide training for physicians and pharmacists on the links between genes, drug metabolism and the risk of adverse drug events. In addition, the Translational Genomics Research Institute will receive funding to develop a universal data format that would allow vendor platforms for genomic research to be integrated into a single file and software library; the University of California will earn funding to develop computational tools to explain the connection between gene pathways that are related to specific disorders; and the University of the Republic of Uruguay will receive a grant to create a data-quality management environment to help users identify and evaluate biological-oriented data quality properties for particular data sources. Health Data Management notes that Microsoft has previously awarded more than $2.5 million for several initiatives through its External Research & Programs unit (Health Data Management, 4/17/08).

PC Gaming alliance brings together industry rivals

Consulting firm Global Inventures has helped assemble a group of industry competitors to develop resources and common standards in an effort to help the multibillion-dollar PC gaming industry grow even larger, the East Bay Business Times reports. The California-based consultant will manage the PC Gaming Alliance, which includes players representing the entire PC gaming supply chain such as chip makers Intel and Advanced Micro Devices Inc., graphics card maker Nvidia Corp., computer makers Dell and Acer Inc., and software companies including Microsoft and Epic Games Inc. Ultimately, the alliance aims to become the authority on the PC game industry and create standards that will make it easier to develop games for personal computers. According to the Times, the game alliance expects to release data on sales and forecasting later this year, as well as progress on configurations by year-end (Sailors, East Bay Business Times, 4/18/08).

Computer scientists unveil new computer graphics program

Computer scientists at the University of California-San Diego Thursday announced creation of a fog and smoke program for computer graphics, United Press International reports. Presenting in Crete, Greece, at Eurographics 2008, the researchers note that the program reduces the computational cost of making realistic smoky and foggy 3-D images, such as depicting beams of light from a lighthouse piercing thick fog. According to the scientists, their achievement will help cutting-edge graphics techniques transition from research labs into movies, and eventually to video games and beyond. UPI adds that “the work is part of a shift in the computer graphics, film, animation and video game industries toward greater realism through the use of ‘ray tracing algorithms’ that calculate how light in computer-generated images would behave in the real world, the researchers said” (UPI, 4/17/08). 

Red Hat says no plans to release Windows competitor to commercial market

Red Hat on Thursday announced that it does not plan to release a competitor to Microsoft's Windows operating system for PCs any time soon, Triangle Business Journal reports. Currently, North Carolina-based Red Hat sells and services a version of the Linux OS for corporate servers, and its low cost has made its the OS of choice for those big customers. Downshifting to the desktop computer market, where Windows dominates, however, would just be too risky and expensive, Red Hat officials note. Specifically, the company’s Desktop Team reported in a post to a corporate blog that, "as a public, for-profit company, Red Hat must create products and technologies with an eye on the bottom line, and with desktops this is much harder to do than with servers," adding that "the desktop market suffers from having one dominant vendor, and some people still perceive that today's Linux desktops simply don't provide a practical alternative" (Triangle Business Journal, 4/17/08).

Online calculator helps determine chances for premature infants

Researchers at the Neonatal Research Network of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development have developed a new online calculator that can help parents and physicians decide how much treatment to provide to extremely premature infants, the New York Times reports. Based on data from a larger study published in the New England Journal of Medicine on Thursday, the calculator takes into account traits, such as birthweight and sex, to generate statistics on the infant's likelihood of survival or disability. Specifically, the study included 4,446 infants born between 22 and 25 weeks' gestation at 19 hospitals in the Neonatal Research Network. One study author notes that the findings and calculator are part of an effort to provide more solid evidence for physicians and parents to make decisions. She adds that she did not know if the study or calculator would lead to more or less treatment of extremely premature infants (Grady, New York Times, 4/17/08). 

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