Press Release


By SpaceRef Editor
November 8, 1999
Filed under

Nov. 8, 1999

David Morse

NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA

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

[email protected]gov



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

“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

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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.

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 there 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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SpaceRef staff editor.