In This Issue: NIST Tells Time--6.5 Million Times a Day Speeders Beware: New Radar Harder to Elude If You Design It Well, They Will Come NIST Software Is Tops at the Earth's Bottom Polyester: You've Come a Long Way Baby Predicting Pollution's Potential Tech Trivia
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NIST Tells Time--6.5 Million Times a Day
Time waits for no one. And increasingly, Americans cannot wait to find out what time it is.
A few years ago, the National Institute of Standards and Technology began offering a new Internet service. It allows people to synchronize their computers internal clocks with the agencys atomic clock in Boulder, Colo., which is one of the worlds most accurate clocks. The computer clocks then automatically synchronize again regularly. NISTs service has proven to be wildly popular. The computer systems involved currently get about 6.5 million hits a day, while traffic is increasing at a rate of 7 percent a month.
Internet traffic to the NIST time servers now outstrips traffic to the general NIST web site, which averages more than 700,000 visits monthly. The single most popular part of the main NIST web site is the Computer Security Resource Clearinghouse, which the NIST Information Technology Laboratory maintains. It accounts for more than a quarter of the traffic.
To learn more about NIST, or to find out precisely what time it is, go to www.nist.gov. To find out about the different time services, or download software that synchronizes a personal computers clock with the atomic clock, visit the web page of the NIST Time and Frequency Division at www.boulder.nist.gov/timefreq.
Philip Bulman, (301) 975-5661
Speeders Beware: New Radar Harder to Elude
More and more police are using photo-radar and radar speed detection systems that are aimed across the road instead of parallel to or along it. This provides advantages of easier concealment and less likelihood of motorists detecting the radar in time to slow down. However, the new systems require frequent calibrations using a more complicated method than the tuning fork calibrator used by the old style of radar guns.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology has developed an inexpensive, portable instrument that receives the radar pulses, processes them internally, and sends a modified signal back to the radar. The modified signal simulates radar reflections from a variety of vehicles ranging in size from motorcycles to 18-wheel tractor-trailers. It can simulate several trucks traveling close together, and simulate targets moving toward or away from the radar at a specific speed. The simulator also can be used to determine whether or not the radar meets the performance standards established by the industry and police associations. Manufacturers interested in discussing production of the calibrator for the marketplace are invited to contact NIST.
Collier Smith, (303) 497-3198
If You Design It Well, They Will Come
Designing World Wide Web sites has been an art for several years. Now it is emerging as a science as well. Increasing interest in making the web easily accessible to average, non-technical people has spawned a whole body of new research.
The growth of web-based electronic commerce will make site design more important in the future. Companies whose web sites are particularly attractive and easy to navigate will gain an advantage over competitors in this arena.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology is hosting a conference on Human Factors and the Web. Researchers who have investigated ways to make web sites easy to use will present their latest findings at the conference. Companies such as American Management Systems, AT&T Labs and the Nielsen Norman Group will present their applied research on topics such as how to make web sites fast and convenient.
Two government agenciesNISTs Information Technology Laboratory and the U.S. Treasury Departmentwill make presentations as well.
AT&T Labs, Bell Atlantic Corp., the National Association of Securities Dealers Inc. and Oracle Corp. are sponsoring the conference, which will be held at NISTs Gaithersburg campus on June 3. More information is available at www.nist.gov/hfweb.
Phillip Bulman, (301) 975-5661
NIST Software Is Tops at the Earth's Bottom
National Institute of Standards and Technology staffers often assert that you cant go far without finding a connection to their measurement, standards or research efforts.
Don Libes, a computer scientist in NISTs Manufacturing Engineering Laboratory, recently got strong support for this claim from a University of New South Wales astrophysicist who says a NIST software tool Libes designed is now in service at the South Pole. The programExpectis being used to glue together different computer applications and automate the result.
University of New South Wales participates in the Automated Astrophysical Site-Testing Observatory, a remote-controlled facility for exploring the infrared and microwave light of the heavens in the extremely clear, dry and dark sky over the Earths southernmost point. Expect helps scientists communicate effectively with the computers running the telescopes. Solid connections are critical; the South Pole is accessible to the Internet for only six hours a day.
Expects South Pole job is the latest in a 10-year success story for the software tool. It has been used by information technology giant Cisco Systems Inc. to configure its networks, by the Air Force to simulate assaults on its computers by 1,000 users at once, and by the producers of the motion picture Babe for long-distance electronic transfer of graphics.
Michael E. Newman, (301) 975-3025
Polyester: You've Come a Long Way Baby
Scientists striving to make strong yet inexpensive composite materials have taken a step in that direction, developing a process in which polyester is strengthened dramatically by carefully blending it with a plastic material similar to Kevlar. Polyester is used because its chemical structure is ideal for making bonds with the reinforcing plastic.
Todays molded composite parts are used in everything from cars, boats and aircraft, to sporting goods and other consumer products. They are made by first fashioning skeletons out of a woven fabric of fibers, such as glass or carbon, and then injecting those pre-formed structures with plastic resins, or by molding a pre-mixed paste of resin and fibers. The reinforcing fibers impart greater strength to the composite parts. But the process is complicated, expensive and labor intensive.
Therefore, materials scientists have been trying to make so-called molecular composites that naturally contain built-in fibers. The result would be a sort of self-assembled composite that could be injected into molds, eliminating steps now needed to incorporate fibers separately. Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology recently have produced such a composite, and they have learned how the reinforcing fibers form. The findings will be presented in a poster paper on May 4 in New York, during this years Annual Technical Conference of the Society of Plastics Engineers.
Michael E. Newman, (301) 975-3025
Predicting Pollution's Potential
Groundwater contamination from polluted soil can be costly both to downstream residents and environmental clean-up agencies. Witness recent regulations that required gasoline stations to remove old, underground tanks or the cleanup of soils around former nuclear weapons plants. To assist in these situations, the National Institute of Standards and Technology has developed an improved method for determining whether a liquid pollutant has adhered to clay in the soiland will take many years to reach groundwater levelsor will move into the groundwater quickly.
This has important implications for pollution spills ranging from gasoline and jet fuels to plutonium and mercury. Thomas J. Bruno, the NIST project manager, says It is a generally applicable method for organic components, and it can be extended to inorganics. In the NIST method, a stable clay coating was prepared on a capillary column and chromatographic measurements on that column produced the strength of adsorption. Measurements were made for pure clays and for clays coated with heavier organic materials. While the measurement results were identical to those obtained from traditional methods, the new method is faster, more efficient and has significantly lower uncertainties.
Fred McGehan, (303) 497-3246
Anyone whos ever suffered a severe bone fracture requiring screws and holding plates will appreciate WWII era research at NIST on torque and holding force for screws in bones. Investigators characterized screw properties that minimized screw-in torque and maximized holding force.
During WWII, the War Department, looking for a way to sabotage enemy fortifications, asked NIST to identify materials that could weaken concrete when added in small amounts during construction. Researchers identified common sugar as an effective strength inhibitor.
During WWII, NIST was asked to help in the development of military fabrics and clothing. There were seemingly impossible and sometimes conflicting needs. As one harassed investigator said, They want textiles that are infinitely strong and infinitely light, that give perfect protection against heat and cold, and, finally, are digestible in case of an emergency.