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Nov. 8, 1999

David Morse

NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA

(Phone: 650/604-4724, 650/604-9000)



Ever want to grab a computer-generated Earth with your bare hands, perform `virtual' surgery, or interact with complex molecular structures?

Visitors will have the opportunity to do just that when they stop by the NASA exhibit at the SC99 High Performance Computing Conference, Nov. 15-18, 1999, at the Oregon Convention Center, Portland, OR.

These and other cutting-edge NASA computer and network technologies will be on display during the three-day event. Scientists and engineers from various NASA centers will also demonstrate and explain their latest computer simulations. The featured simulations range from medical and geographical imaging, to advanced human-machine interfaces, aerospace vehicles, galaxy formations and new learning technologies.

"The general public will have an opportunity to interact with and understand developing technology and chat one-on-one with researchers," said Bill Van Dalsem, deputy program manager of NASA's High Performance Computing and Communications Program. "We are very excited about the opportunity to interact directly with the public in this way."

A variety of collaborative-environment technologies that allow scientists, doctors and engineers to develop new procedures and improve existing ones will be on display at the NASA booth. In one demonstration, scientists from NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA, will show how highly sophisticated medical imaging combined with high-performance networking can be used to "bring the clinic to the patient," according to Dr. Muriel Ross, former principal investigator at Ames' Center for Bioinformatics.

"We are supporting remote collaborations of doctors at different locations on Earth. This will prepare us to use the technology for spacecraft crews traveling to Mars or other planets where specialists may not be available," Ross observed.

The NASA telemedicine technology will allow physicians to consult, diagnose, and plan treatments for patients in real time from a great distance using 3-D images rendered on high-performance computers. This virtual `collaborative clinic' will help doctors treat astronauts traveling in space and provide care for people in remote locations on Earth. During the demonstration, visitors to the NASA booth will be able to play the role of physician and `operate' on hearts, skulls and other body parts using this unique software.

More information about the Center for Bioinformatics is on the Internet at:


Another demonstration, the virtual mechanosynthesis simulation experiment, will allow users to practice designing models with vibrating and rotating simulated atoms the size of ping pong balls.

"Like tinker toys, the atoms can be moved about and built into arbitrarily complex structures -- a form of assembly that is the essence of nanotechnology," said Chris Henze, one of the creators of the program at NASA Ames. Nanotechnology is the control of matter on the nanometer scale, typically from one-tenth of a nanometer to 100 nanometers; a nanometer is one billionth of a meter. Nanotechnology is also the construction and operation of machines on the nanometer scale.

Researchers search for "mechanisms capable of placing individual atoms in precisely defined positions," Henze said. "With this technology, researchers can move individual atoms and create plausible atomic designs. A force-feedback arm device even allows users to `feel' the forces at work between atoms," he concluded.

Visitors to the NASA booth will also be able to build their own potato-chip-shaped carbon hydrogen junctions, and even "touch" atoms – the smallest particles of elements -- for the first time. An additional feature of the NASA display will be the digital Earth immersive workbench developed by scientists and engineers at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD.

Workbench users wear stereo glasses to view a 3-D image of the Earth that they manipulate with intuitive hand movements. Digital Earth explorers can hold the Earth in their hands and lift it up to their faces to see natural and cultural forces that affect our planet. Viewers have the option of observing sea surface temperature measurements, weather forecasts or movies of recent earthquakes and other disasters.

"Demonstrators will roam a dramatic, high-resolution Earth model. We can grab the computer-generated Earth like a real-life globe and bring it close for examination," said Stephen Maher, manager of Goddard's virtual environments laboratory. "We can also move it away for full-planet views or set it spinning on its axis."

Complete exhibit information and links to related materials are available at the SC99 High Performance Networking and Computing Conference website at:



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