Information Science

Utilizing Expert Knowledge in Estimating Future STS Costs

A method of estimating the costs of future space transportation systems (STSs) involves classical activity-based cost (ABC) modeling combined with systematic utilization of the knowledge and opinions of experts to extend the process-flow knowledge of existing systems to systems that involve new materials and/or new architectures. The expert knowledge is particularly helpful in filling gaps that arise in computational models of processes because of inconsistencies in historical cost data. Heretofore, the costs of planned STSs have been estimated following a "top-down" approach that tends to force the architectures of new systems to incorporate process flows like those of the space shuttles. In this ABC-based method, one makes assumptions about the processes, but otherwise follows a "bottoms up" approach that does not force the new system architecture to incorporate a space-shuttle-like process flow. Prototype software has been developed to implement this method. Through further development of software, it should be possible to extend the method beyond the space program to almost any setting in which there is a need to estimate the costs of a new system and to extend the applicable knowledge base in order to make the estimate.

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Improved Discrete Approximation of Laplacian of Gaussian

This method reduces the amount of circuitry needed for filtering of video data. An improved method of computing a discrete approximation of the Laplacian of a Gaussian convolution of an image has been devised. The primary advantage of the method is that without substantially degrading the accuracy of the end result, it reduces the amount of information that must be processed and thus reduces the amount of circuitry needed to perform the Laplacian-of-Gaussian (LOG) operation.

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Autonomous Environment-Monitoring Networks

These neural networks recognize novel features in streams of input data. Autonomous environment-monitoring networks (AEMNs) are artificial neural networks that are specialized for recognizing familiarity and, conversely, novelty. Like a biological neural network, an AEMN receives a constant stream of inputs. For purposes of computational implementation, the inputs are vector representations of the information of interest. As long as the most recent input vector is similar to the previous input vectors, no action is taken. Action is taken only when a novel vector is encountered. Whether a given input vector is regarded as novel depends on the previous vectors; hence, the same input vector could be regarded as familiar or novel, depending on the context of previous input vectors. AEMNs have been proposed as means to enable exploratory robots on remote planets to recognize novel features that could merit closer scientific attention. AEMNs could also be useful for processing data from medical instrumentation for automated monitoring or diagnosis.

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Hexagonal Pixels and Indexing Scheme for Binary Images

For some purposes, this scheme is superior to rectangular pixels. A scheme for resampling binaryimage data from a rectangular grid to a regular hexagonal grid and an associated tree - structured pixel - indexing scheme keyed to the level of resolution have been devised. This scheme could be utilized in conjunction with appropriate image - data - processing algorithms to enable automated retrieval and/or recognition of images. For some purposes, this scheme is superior to a prior scheme that relies on rectangular pixels: One example of such a purpose is recognition of fingerprints, which can be approximated more closely by use of line segments along hexagonal axes than by line segments along rectangular axes. This scheme could also be combined with algorithms for query - image - based retrieval of images via the Internet.

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Finding Minimum-Power Broadcast Trees for Wireless Networks

Algorithms for identifying viable trees have been derived. Some algorithms have been devised for use in a method of constructing tree graphs that represent connections among the nodes of a wireless ommunication network. These algorithms provide for determining the viability of any given candidate connection tree and for generating an initial set of viable trees that can be used in any of a variety of search algorithms (e.g., a genetic algorithm) to find a tree that enables the network to broadcast from a source node to all other nodes while consuming the minimum amount of total power. The method yields solutions better than those of a prior algorithm known as the broadcast incremental power algorithm, albeit at a slightly greater computational cost.

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Automation of Design Engineering Processes

A method facilitates ISO 9001 compliance and eliminates voluminous, difficult-to-manage paper files. A method, and a computer program that helps to implement the method, have been developed to automate and systematize the retention and retrieval of all the written records generated during the process of designing a complex engineering system. It cannot be emphasized strongly enough that “all the written records” as used here is meant to be taken literally: it signifies not only final drawings and final engineering calculations but also such ancillary documents as minutes of meetings, memoranda, requests for design changes, approval and review documents, and reports of tests. One important purpose served by the method is to make the records readily available to all involved users via their computer workstations from one computer archive while eliminating the need for voluminous paper files stored in different places. Another important purpose served by the method is to facilitate the work of engineers who are charged with sustaining the system and were not involved in the original design decisions. The method helps the sustaining engineers to retrieve information that enables them to retrace the reasoning that led to the original design decisions, thereby helping them to understand the system better and to make informed engineering choices pertaining to maintenance and/or modifications of the system. The software used to implement the method is written in Microsoft Access. All of the documents pertaining to the design of a given system are stored in one relational database in such a manner that they can be related to each other via a single tracking number. In addition to improving the management of records of the design process, the method can be utilized to improve the design process itself in a number of ways that include the following:

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Higher-Order Finite Elements for Computing Thermal Radiation

Computationally efficient methods yield close approximations of exact solutions. Two variants of the finite-element method have been developed for use in computational simulations of radiative transfers of heat among diffuse gray surfaces. Both variants involve the use of higher-order finite elements, across which temperatures and radiative quantities are assumed to vary according to certain approximations. In this and other applications, higherorder finite elements are used to increase (relative to classical finite elements, which are assumed to be isothermal) the accuracies of final numerical results without having to refine computational meshes excessively and thereby incur excessive computation times.One of the variants is termed the radiation sub-element (RSE) method, which, itself, is subject to a number of variations. This is the simplest and most straightforward approach to representation of spatially variable surface radiation. Any computer code that, heretofore, could model surface-to-surface radiation can incorporate the RSE method without major modifications.

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