Box Enhances Medical Decision Making
a hospital in Indianapolis, the staff first learned that a patient
had tuberculosis when a black box sent an alert to
a pharmacists pager. The computerized decision-support system
helped the staff isolate the highly contagious patient more quickly
than otherwise possible.
incident is among the improvements in patient care attributed
to a clinical alert system developed by Sunquest Information Systems
of Tucson, Ariz. Currently operating in seven hospital groups
in six states, the alert system provides critical lab test results,
adverse drug event monitoring data and other information to medical
staff by pager, e-mail, fax or printer. It helps save money in
a variety of ways, such as suggesting changes from intravenous
to less expensive oral medications. Sunquest estimates that the
alert system could save a hospital hundreds of thousands of dollars
underlying technology was developed in a three-year project co-funded
by the National Institute of Standards and Technologys Advanced
Technology Program. The key innovation is an expert system (computer
software that attempts to mimic the reasoning of a human specialist)
that combines knowledge bases for both diagnosis and treatment.
used the expert system to build a black box (in reference
to its seemingly mysterious operation), which listens in on hospital
network traffic, captures clinical messages, codes the data and
filters them through a knowledge base (containing more than 500
built-in rules and a dictionary of 6,000 terms) to detect clinical
significance, and sends alerts to subscribers.
Baum, (301) 975-2763
Showcases NIST Connections in Your Community
100 years, the National Institute of Standards and Technologyand
its predecessor, the National Bureau of Standardshas touched
the everyday life of Americans in ways that most of us would
not imagine. Almost everything you come into contact with in
your daily routinebe it at work, school or anywhere in
your communityhas a connection to NIST. And now, you can
see the links yourself on a new web site, NIST in Your
of its centennial celebrations, NIST has created a virtual tour
of a typical U.S. community illustrating the agencys often
unseen support for a wide variety of business, manufacturing
and service sectors. Included are tour stops showing NIST ties
to automobile manufacturing, communications, construction, medicine,
law enforcement, research and semiconductor manufacturing. Also
featured is a special section on NIST in Your Home
that describes how most products in an American household rely
on NISTs measurements and services.
in Your Community online tour is modeled after the real-life
interactive exhibit of the same name at NIST headquarters in
Gaithersburg, Md. Located in the main lobby of the NIST Administration
Building, the exhibit is open to the public from 8:30 a.m. until
5 p.m. weekdays.
Atoms Dance to the Beat of the Bosenova
first observation of a Bose-Einstein condensateby physicists
at JILA (a research institute operated jointly by the National
Institute of Standards and Technology and the University of Colorado
at Boulder) in 1995was only the beginning of the quest to
understand the unusual behavior of the then-new state of matter.
The strangest behavior yetand a surprise to the investigators
who discovered itwas reported in a July 19, 2001, paper
in Nature: BECs can explode like tiny supernovas.
in theory by Albert Einstein and Indian physicist Satyendra Nath
Bose in 1924, a BEC is produced when virtually all the atoms in
an ultracold gasat just a few hundred billionths of a degree
above absolute zerocondense into a superatom
that behaves like a single entity. In this state, atoms behave
like waves instead of particles. BECs open up many new possibilities
for manipulating and studying quantum wave functions.
JILA team tuned the interactions between the BEC atoms
to make them more attractive or repulsive by exposure to magnetic
fields. The condensate first shrinks as expected, but rather than
gradually clumping together in a mass, there is instead a sudden
explosion of atoms outward. This explosion, which
actually corresponds to a tiny amount of energy by normal standards,
continues for a few thousandths of a second. About half the original
atoms in the condensate appear to vanish.
the phenomenon looks very much like a tiny supernova, or exploding
star, the researchers dubbed it a Bosenova. The fundamental
physical process underlying the explosion remains a mystery.
Smith (Boulder), (303) 497-3198
Museum Opens Exhibit on NIST
honor 100 years of service by the National Institute of Standards
and Technology, the Smithsonian Institutions National Museum
of American History has opened an exhibit, Striving for
has worked on a mind-boggling range of projects, from profound
scientific investigations to studies of everyday products,
said exhibition curator Roger Sherman. At the [NIST centennial]
anniversary, we draw well-deserved attention to NISTs accomplishments
while suggesting the difficulties it sometimes faces in securing
acceptance of its work.
exhibit takes a close look at three NIST standards challenges:
defining length; describing color; and encouraging America to
convert to the metric system. For example, NIST work on color
has impacts ranging from childs play to traffic safety.
The makers of Crayola crayons used NISTs 1955 publication
Color: Universal Language and Dictionary of Names to help
select names for their crayons. The standard colors used by the
railroad, shipping and aerospace industries are based on NIST
work, as are the familiar red, yellow and green of traffic lights,
and school bus yellow.
exhibit also includes the solid platinum alloy meter bar and krypton
lamp that served as the official U.S. standard of length from
1893-1960 and 1960-1983, respectively.
a detailed look at NISTs first century, go to www.100.nist.gov.
E. Newman, (301) 975-3025
Aircraft Repairer Soars to Success with MEP Help
Hiserodt, sales manager for Neosource Inc., a Tulsa, Okla., Federal
Aviation Administration-certified aircraft repair firm, was excited
and perplexed at the same time. I learned that the magnesium
boxes housing the locking apparatus in one commercial aircrafts
main cabin doors were subject to cracks and corrosion, he
said. Although not a safety concern, it was an expensive
repair for airlines using the plane, he said. This
was a huge opportunity for our small [nine-person] company, but
we were primarily a stainless steel and aluminum machine shop
and had never worked with magnesium.
a can do attitude, Neosource (www.neosource.net)
sought help from the Oklahoma Alliance for Manufacturing Excellence
an affiliate of the National Institute of Standards and Technologys
Manufacturing Extension Partnership nationwide network of assistance
centers for small manufacturers.
Alliance field agent helped Neosource acquire the knowledge it
needed to work with magnesium. After reviewing the information,
we successfully developed repair specifications that were approved
by the manufacturer and users, Hiserodt said.
new expertise with magnesium allowed the firm to add strength
and anti-corrosion enhancements to the standard door box, and
then market the improved device at a significantly cheaper cost
(on one plane, for example, a savings of $27,000). This
has opened up a whole new product line for Neosource, helped us
double sales and gain the confidence to pursue other magnesium
products to repair through reverse engineering, Hiserodt
Kosko, (301) 975-2767
Gives Chip Makers the Edge by Smoothing Edges
trying to measure something very tiny that also isnt very
straight. Thats the challenge faced by the semiconductor
industry as computer chips become smaller. Miniaturization techniques
have advanced considerably in recent decades. Yet it is difficult
to come up with a good ruler for measuring something
that is only 100 nanometers across, or about one one-thousandth
the width of a human hair. The task is tougher yet if you are
trying to measure something with ragged edges.
at the National Institute of Standards and Technology are helping
the semiconductor industry overcome this problem and clear the
way to improved measurements of critical dimensions
(known as CD in the industry). Critical dimensions refer to the
smallest size that can be etched into a computer chip uniformly.
Ragged-edged chip materials cannot provide a reliable, consistent
standard for measuring CD. Therefore, NIST engineers have developed
test structures using a silicon crystal lattice that has perfectly
even sides to do the job.
the introduction of these test structures, NIST has taken a significant
step toward creating a standard way to calibrate instruments (the
rulers) used to measure 100-nanometer-wide gates in
computer chips. NIST distributed test chipseach containing
a prototype calibration standard with a CD ranging from 80 to
140 nanometersto 15 semiconductor manufacturers (members
of the International SEMATECH consortium) worldwide in April.
The firms currently are evaluating the samples and will provide
the results to NIST by September. The data then will be used to
complete work on a CD measurement standard for the semiconductor