NASA to award student scholarships

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) recently announced it is accepting applications for its fall 2008 scholarship program, United Press International reports. Undergraduate and graduate students studying aeronautics and related fields can apply for the program, which aims to attract top candidates for space-related studies, between Feb. 22 and Mar. 17. The scholarships, which cover tuition, room and board, and other school-related expenses, include up to $15,000 per year for two years for undergraduates in their second year of study and up to $35,000 per year for three years for graduate students. In addition, students can apply for optional summer internships at NASA research centers to earn $10,000 in extra stipends. All applicants must be U.S. citizens and more details are available here (UPI, 2/18/08).

Computer expert suggests AI will reach the human level by 2020

One of 18 people recently chosen by the American Association for the Advancement of Science to speak on future technological challenges, Ray Kurzweil at an expert forum suggested that computers by 2020 will have the same intellectual capacity as humans, Untied Press International reports. Specifically, he said that artificial intelligence (AI) in the future will advance far beyond human intelligence, noting that "three-dimensional, molecular computing will provide the hardware for human-level 'strong artificial intelligence' by the 2020s." He adds that "the more important software insights will be gained in part from the reverse engineering of the human brain, a process well under way. Already, two dozen regions of the human brain have been modeled and simulated." According to UPI, Kurzweil's based his predictions on the supposition that the "law of accelerating returns" will continue with AI development. As an example, UPI reports that under the accelerating return principal, computer chip power has doubled every two years for the past half-century (UPI, 2/17/08).

EA announces deal with IMG marketing firm

Electronic Arts (EA) Inc. on Thursday announced it will partner with sports and entertainment marketing firm IMG, the San Jose Business Journal reports. Though EA has yet to release financial terms of the agreement, the Journal reports that IMG will help license the EA brand. Other deals may include sports camps, gaming lounges, publishing products, performance apparel and other ventures (San Jose Business Journal, 2/14/08).

U.S. labs to use biotechnology, computers for testing

U.S. government officials on Thursday announced that federal labs will begin transitioning to non-animal testing methods such as cells and computer models to study the safety of chemicals, drugs and toxins, Reuters reports. According to the National Institutes of Health and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the innovative methods are faster and are likely to be more accurate and much less costly. Reuters also reports that  the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the National Human Genome Research Institute will work with the EPA to make sure the newer methods are more accurate before expanding the program (Fox, Reuters, 2/14/08).

New version of solar system discovered

Astronomers on Wednesday announced they had identified a miniature version of e solar system 5,000 light-years across the galaxy, the first such discovery to actually resemble our own planetary system, the New York Times reports. An assistant professor of astronomy at Ohio State University led an international team of 69 professional and amateur astronomers who ultimately discovered what they say “looks like a scale model of our solar system.” According to the scientists, the discovery suggests that our solar system may be more typical of planetary systems across the universe than had been previously thought. The Times notes their findings will be published on Friday in the journal Science (Overbye, New York Times, 2/15/08).

Arizona telemedicine program links rural clinics to specialists

The University of Arizona College of Medicine's growing telemedicine program is improving care for rural patients, the Tucson Citizen reports. The telemedicine system uses Internet-based videoconferencing technology to facilitate access to medical services, including psychiatry, surgery, pediatrics, radiology and pathology. Thus far, the network has communication hubs in Tucson, Phoenix and Flagstaff, Ariz., as well as three facilities in the Navajo Nation. In addition, the network enables services for 171 clinics and hospitals in Arizona and New Mexico, while the Arizona Department of Corrections, which operates 10 prisons statewide, also has used the telemedicine system thousands of times, according to officials. The director of the Arizona Telemedicine Program, meanwhile, says he hopes “that eventually this will be a mainstream way of providing health care" (Avery-Page, Tucson Citizen, 2/15/08).

CSC releases new tracking tool, targets military customers

Computer Science Corp. (CSC) has unveiled new technology that aims to help organizations track people, vehicles and infrastructure anywhere on Earth, allowing them to better protect and account for mobile assets, Government Computer News reports. The global Location Object Field Tracking (LOFT) system offers a contextual, user-friendly view of objects tracked from three sources including overall perspective, current data reports and historical background. In addition, LOFT employs a variety of standard connections, such as cellular, satellite, Wi-Fi and WiMax. LOFT also uses Web 2.0 methods for analysis and presentation. According to the chief technologist at CSC, “LOFT delivers a four-dimension, contextual, Web 2.0 interface through combining the bird’s eye view perspective of GPS with associated historical attributes and the context of real-time information on location, motion and status.” Based on the defense community’s other visibility technology adoptions, CSC officials expect LOFT to be a good fit for military customers (Beizin, GCN, 2/14/08).

Online tool helps Obama campaign track voter interest

RightNow Technologies is managing the “Answer Center,” a database of questions and answers on Illinois Sen. Barack Obama’s presidential campaign Web site, Government Computer News reports. The Answer Center enables users to search questions and answers by category including general, feedback, policy, scheduling/invitation or volunteering, as well as suggest new questions. RightNow’s service solution also contains a self-learning knowledge base that uses artificial intelligence technology to learn how users and contact center staff search for information and automatically applies that insight to make it easier for them to find what they're looking for, according to RightNow’s senior account executive for the public sector. He adds that, since launching in April 2007, 1.3 million people have accessed or used either the Answer Center or Online Invitation solutions on Obama’s site(Yasin, GCN, 2/14/08).

Loma Linda University creates mapping tool to monitor vector-borne disease

California-based Loma Linda University’s School of Public Health recently developed a mobile mapping tool to help counties improve their vector-borne disease control capabilities, Government Health IT reports. The Vector Control Surveillance System (VCSS) allows local public health workers to better monitor the growth and movements of vectors including rats, mosquitoes, fleas and ticks, which helps track the potential spread of health threats such as West Nile Virus, Lyme Disease and encephalitis. As part of the system, vector control inspectors enter data in the field into digitized forms and a geographic information system on a laptop computer. The information is then automatically loaded into a centralized database that combines the data with county data sets, including local weather reports, demographic information and historical data on disease outbreaks, for further mapping and analysis. The tool will be tested this spring in San Bernardino County, Calif., before being made available to other public health officials (Hayes, Government Health IT, 2/13/08).

Congressional panel calls for creation of national emergency broadband network

The Joint Advisory Committee on Communications Capabilities of Emergency Medical and Pubic Health Care Facilities (JAC) recently issued a report calling for the creation of a national, interoperable broadband network to bolster coordination between emergency responders and health care facilities, AHA News Now reports. Calling existing communication technologies outdated and fragile, the panel outlined a strategy that considers the unique needs of each member in the emergency response chain. Specifically, the group recommends creating a network on a standardized Internet platform that could facilitate the rapid transmission of health-related information in a reliable, secure format. According to the plan, the platform also could foster interoperability through improved interagency communications and the use of common protocols; create “virtual hospitals” at the scene of an accident or disaster; and spur the advancement of telemedicine, remote monitoring, and telecommuting. To meet these goals, JAC recommends that Congress establish a federal interagency committee to provide guidance and develop standards to ensure compatibility. Additionally, the panel recommends that the federal government finance the network’s development and tailor contract and grant criteria to reflect “its commitment to develop, harmonize and ensure widespread adoption of shared standards and protocols” (AHA News Now, 2/13/08; JAC report, January 2008).

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