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NASA's New Research Network
Source: Supercomputing Online

Social networking isn’t rocket science, but scientists at NASA are showing how it can help them pursue the most bleeding-edge applications.

This month, the agency will launch a new research network named NASA Earth Exchange (NEX), which combines high-end supercomputing resources with Earth-modeling systems and decades' worth of remote sensing data to provide a new way of analyzing the planet’s climate and land-use patterns.

According to a story at Supercomputing Online, NASA scientists think the new network can slash the time needed to gather and analyze the massive, global-scale datasets they use — from the months it takes now to only hours.

The online collaboration will enable NASA teams scattered around the world to easily share datasets, algorithms, complex codes and research results, which they haven’t been able to do before because it required physically transferring huge amounts of data to one another.

Other scientists will be able to add their own data, opening new avenues for research into issues such as urbanization, deforestation and biodiversity.

DHS' Version of the Tricorder
Source: Defence Talk

Remember the tricorder, that ubiquitous, do-everything handheld tool featured in "Star Trek"? Crew members could wave it over a person to diagnose illnesses or hold it up in the air during field missions to detect chemical elements or energy sources. That device was one of the best examples of the ingenuity of science fiction.

Now comes the news that the Homeland Security Department is developing something it’s calling Cell-All, a smart phone with sensors capable of sniffing the air around it so it can isolate toxic chemicals. It has obvious applications to emergency and military situations.

Such advances take advantage of ever smaller, cheaper and more specialized chips, along with faster and denser memory. And they are quickly turning science fiction into science fact.

Finding the Payback in the Details
Source: MIT Sloan CIO Symposium's CIO Corner

When developing return-on-investment justifications for new technology projects, planners often fail to account for all the soft and hidden costs that can thwart an otherwise good business plan.

Consultant Eric David Benari, writing on an "MIT Sloan CIO Symposium" blog, said the way to achieve a sustainable ROI is to take a more holistic view of how the technology will interact with its environment throughout its life cycle. That means taking into account the people who will develop and eventually use the new technology, the IT infrastructure that will support it, and the planning and project management methodologies that guide its development.

Benari suggests eight ways to boost ROI, from the often overlooked principle that simpler-to-use solutions almost always provide superior payback to warnings about the false productivity promise in certain new technologies, such as cloud computing or software as a service.

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