The Spruce Goose Would Look Like A Tinkertoy Next To This

Operation Desert Storm proved once again that transporting armed forces and heavy equipment quickly to far corners of the world isn't easy. Stephan F. Hooker, president of Aerocon Inc. in Arlington, Va., has a solution: a giant so-called wingship that could lift far more weight than a conventional airplane.

The chubby, stubby-winged craft would fly just 15 to 100 feet above the ocean, taking advantage of the cushion of dense air near the surface. Funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Aerocon calculates that a 550-foot-long wingship could zip along at 500 mph with a cargo of 2,000 troops and dozens of helicopters and tanks. Hooker also wants to collaborate with Russian engineers who have long been researching similar giant flying machines. But there's a hurdle: the price for each wingship could run to $600 million--as much as a B-2 bomber.

Part 2

Predicting groundwater contamination is essential for protecting water supplies. To locate toxic seepage, geologists use flow meters and special tests that isolate small sections of a well. But scientists at the Energy Dept.'s Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory in Berkeley, Calif., and the National Co-operative for the Storage of Radioactive Waste in Baden, Switzerland, have devised an improved groundwater-monitoring system, dubbed "hydrophysical logging."

Berkeley hydrologist Chin Fu Tsang and his team developed a computer program called BORE that analyzes the hydraulic properties of underground rock and predicts how quickly contaminants will move from a given point of origin. The software evaluates data from fluid logging--a technique that measures the chemical changes to de-ionized water that has been pumped into a borehole. By monitoring or "logging" these changes, scientists can determine the source and volume of groundwater pollution.

The new system, 10 times faster than most tests and more accurate than flow meters, is being used in Switzerland to study possible underground sites for nuclear-waste disposal. And GZA GeoEnvironmental Inc. in Newton, Mass., is using BORE to evaluate pollution in shallow wells in the U.S.

Part 3

The need for physicians to send blood samples off for laboratory tests often slows diagnosis. Now, i-STAT Corp. in Princeton, N.J., has developed a pocket-size blood analyzer that produces results in just 90 seconds. The $3,000 device relies on microchip biosensors to detect conditions that reveal ailments such as anemia and diabetes. And the analyzer requires just a pinprick rather than a test-tube sample of blood.

A combination of electronics and chemistry does the trick. The first step is to place two drops of blood in a microchip cartridge that is inserted into the hand-held analyzer. Membrane-tipped sensors measure electrical potential, conductivity, or resistance in the sample. The readings indicate levels of blood sugar, nitrogen, red blood cells, and common electrolytes such as potassium. More complex analyses, such as testing for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, still require lab tests.

The $12 cost of each cartridge far exceeds the pennies-per-test cost of large lab machines. But i-STAT thinks the device will sell to hospitals attracted by the quick, efficient diagnosis.

Part 4

Most people who've been in an auto accident never forget that moment when time and space effectively blur. To help carmakers understand exactly what happens during collisions, Eastman Kodak Co. has devised a motion-analysis system that can withstand 40-mph crashes.

A rugged, steel-encased electronic camera mounted in the test vehicle sends images in computer-compatible digital format to a remote system that can record up to 12,000 pictures per second. Carmakers can thus watch collisions, then replay them in slow motion. "With this, we can do something instantly that generally took us two days," said James Moon-Dupree, a safety expert at Ford Motor Co. in Dearborn, Mich.

Kodak marketer Gerald Lilly estimates the new system will sell for more than $60,000. But the system means that auto makers don't have to destroy as many cars in crash tests. Moreover, having this information in digital form lays the groundwork for future test crashes done in the computer-generated world known as virtual reality.

Part 5

"Whack! Thunk!"

The narrative between hero Lance Stone and his assailant is in the best comic-book tradition. But the story of Lance Stone: Trouble at the Woz isn't frozen in print. It's an electronic comic book for personal computers.

The drawings are spiced with sounds, occasional animation, and so-called hypertext technology, which makes the comics interactive. At certain points, you can switch to a subplot or watch events unfold in the year 2091 from the viewpoint of another character at the Woz, a next-century nightspot. Developed by PC Comix Inc. in Ashland, Ore., the first version of HyperComix for IBM-type PCs with color monitors will cost $20. Its cliff-hanger ending leaves you itching for more.

PC Comix is a startup co-founded by Paul Mace and Douglas Zeffer. Mace is president of Paul Mace Software Inc. and author of Mace Utilities, a popular set of PC programs. Zeffer helped found GRAFX Group Inc., a computer-art company in San Juan Capistrano, Calif. The two longtime comic-book fans predict HyperComix will be a $100 million market by 1995.

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