Technicalities

LOST IN SPACE. Of all the ways mobile computing devices can go missing, only NASA could have accomplished this one. The Government Accountability Office's June report on the gaps in how NASA keeps track of its equipment (GCN.com/833) includes an itemized list of some of the more unusual ways in which equipment was lost. Among them was this note about a $4,265 laptop PC: 'This computer, although assigned to me, was being used on board the International Space Station. I was informed that it was tossed overboard to be burned up in the atmosphere when it failed.' Well, that's the mystery of one missing government laptop solved. But might it also raise possibilities for future PC disposal? After all, who, at one time or other, wouldn't have enjoyed watching their computer be incinerated by the atmosphere? NASA could hold a lottery to see who gets to toss a PC, raising money for future missions in the process.

GAME LESSONS. The unexpected outbreak of a virtual infectious disease in an online game is helping researchers study how people might react in the event of a real pandemic. The role-playing game 'World of Warcraft' introduced a blood disease spread by a character in a high level of the game. The disease wasn't a big threat to the advanced players at that level, but when they returned to a lower level, it began to spread ' and players began reacting. Some tried to help others, some fled and some even tried to spread the disease. Two researchers at Rutgers and Tufts universities are using mathematical equations to study people's reactions ' accounting for the fact that people might take more risks online than in real life ' as part of developing an infectious-disease modeling program.

About the Author

Kevin McCaney is editor of Defense Systems. Follow him on Twitter: @KevinMcCaney.

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