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Using Dissimilarity Metrics to Identify Interesting Designs

A computer program helps to blend the power of automated-search software, which is able to generate large numbers of design solutions, with the insight of expert designers, who are able to identify preferred designs but do not have time to examine all the solutions. From among the many automated solutions to a given design problem, the program selects a smaller number of solutions that are worthy of scrutiny by the experts in the sense that they are sufficiently dissimilar from each other. The program makes the selection in an interactive process that involves a sequence of datamining steps interspersed with visual displays of results of these steps to the experts. At crucial points between steps, the experts provide directives to guide the process. The program uses heuristic search techniques to identify nearly optimal design solutions and uses dissimilarity metrics defined by the experts to characterize the degree to which solutions are interestingly different. The search, data-mining, and visualization features of the program were derived from previously developed risk-management software used to support a risk-centric design methodology.

Posted in: Software, Briefs, TSP

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Coordinating an Autonomous Earth- Observing Sensorweb

A system of software has been developed to coordinate the operation of an autonomous Earth-observing sensorweb. Sensorwebs are collections of sensor units scattered over large regions to gather data on spatial and temporal patterns of physical, chemical, or biological phenomena in those regions. Each sensor unit is a node in a data-gathering/ data-communication network that spans a region of interest. In this case, the region is the entire Earth, and the sensorweb includes multiple terrestrial and spaceborne sensor units. In addition to acquiring data for scientific study, the sensorweb is required to give timely notice of volcanic eruptions, floods, and other hazardous natural events. In keeping with the inherently modular nature of the sensory, communication, and data-processing hardware, the software features a flexible, modular architecture that facilitates expansion of the network, customization of conditions that trigger alarms of hazardous natural events, and customization of responses to alarms. The software facilitates access to multiple sources of data on an event of scientific interest, enables coordinated use of multiple sensors in rapid reaction to detection of an event, and facilitates the tracking of spacecraft operations, including tracking of the acquisition, processing, and downlinking of requested data.

Posted in: Software, Briefs, TSP

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Carbon-Nanotube Schottky Diodes

These devices can outperform conventional Schottky diodes at submillimeter wavelengths. Schottky diodes based on semiconducting single-walled carbon nanotubes are being developed as essential components of the next generation of submillimeter- wave sensors and sources. Initial performance predictions have shown that the performance characteristics of these devices can exceed those of the state-of-the-art solid-state Schottky diodes that have been the components of choice for room-temperature submillimeter- wave sensors for more than 50 years.

Posted in: Semiconductors & ICs, Briefs, TSP

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White-Light Whispering-Gallery-Mode Optical Resonators

Overlapping resonator modes are exploited to obtain wide, high-Q spectra. Whispering-gallery-mode (WGM) optical resonators can be designed to exhibit continuous spectra over wide wavelength bands (in effect, white-light spectra), with ultrahigh values of the resonance quality factor (Q) that are nearly independent offrequency. White-light WGM resonators have potential as superior alternatives to(1) larger, conventional optical resonators in ring-down spectroscopy, and (2) optical-resonator/electro-opticalmodulator structures used in coupling of microwave and optical signals in atomic clocks. In these and other potential applications, the use of white-light WGM resonators makes it possible to relax the requirement of high-frequency stability of lasers, thereby enabling the use of cheaper lasers.

Posted in: Physical Sciences, Briefs, TSP

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Ice-Borehole Probe

The art of borehole imaging has been extended to deep, cold, wet, high-pressure environments. An instrumentation system has been developed for studying interactions between a glacier or ice sheet and the underlying rock and/or soil. Prior borehole imaging systems have been used in well-drilling and mineral-exploration applications and for studying relatively thin valley glaciers, but have not been used for studying thick ice sheets like those of Antarctica.

Posted in: Physical Sciences, Briefs, TSP

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Alpha-Voltaic Sources Using Liquid Ga as Conversion Medium

These units would offer long life and high energy-conversion efficiency. A family of proposed miniature sources of power would exploit the direct conversion of the kinetic energy of a particles into electricity. In addition to having long operational lives, these sources are expected to operate with energy-conversion efficiencies from 70 to 90 percent.

Posted in: Physical Sciences, Briefs, TSP

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Using Satellite Data in Weather Forecasting: I

The GOES Product Generation System (GPGS) is a set of computer codes and scripts that enable the assimilation of real-time Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) data into regional weather forecasting mathematical models. The GPGS can be used to derive such geophysical parameters as land surface temperature, the amount of precipitable water, the degree of cloud cover, the surface albedo, and the amount of insolation from satellite measurements of radiant energy emitted by the Earth and its atmosphere. GPGS incorporates a priori information (initial guesses of thermodynamic parameters of the atmosphere) and radiometric measurements from the geostationary operational environmental satellites along with mathematical models of physical principles that govern the transfer of energy in the atmosphere. GPGS solves the radiative-transfer equation and provides the resulting data products in formats suitable for use by weather-forecasting computer programs. The data-assimilation capability afforded by GPGS offers the potential to improve local weather forecasts ranging from 3 hours to 2 days — especially with respect to temperature, humidity, cloud cover, and the probability of precipitation. The improvements afforded by GPGS could be of interest to news media, utility companies, and other organizations that utilize regional weather forecasts.

Posted in: Physical Sciences, Briefs

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