The Wasps Know

Trained wasps could be a low-tech, low-cost weapon in the war against terrorism.

Researchers at the University of Georgia-Tifton Campus created a handheld "Wasp Hound" -- five wasps, each a half-inch long, are placed in a plastic cylinder that is 15 inches tall. The Wasp Hound, which costs roughly $100, has a vent in one end and a camera that connects to a laptop computer.

When the wasps sense an odor they've been trained to detect, such as the chemicals from explosives or biological weapons, the insects gather by the vent -- a response that can be measured by the computer or actually seen by observers.

The researchers said their device is ready for pilot tests and could be available for commercial use in five to 10 years. The wasps, when exposed to some chemicals, can detect amounts as low as four parts per billion. -- USA Today

Snap Decision

It takes Internet users about 50 milliseconds -- roughly the duration of one frame of standard television coverage -- to form lasting impressions of Web sites, according to Canadian researchers.

A recent study shows that the brain can make flash judgments almost as fast as the eye can receive information. Volunteers got the briefest glimpses of Web pages previously rated as being either easy on the eye or particularly jarring, and were asked to rate the Web sites on a sliding scale of visual appeal.

Even though the images flashed up for just 50 milliseconds, viewers' judgments of a Web site were nearly the same as judgments made after a longer period of scrutiny. -- Nature.com

Book Report

Two Purdue University industrial designers have created a personal computer design that may change how people watch movies, listen to music, play games and read magazines.

The concept computer, called Bookshelf, targets digital copyrights and inconvenient accessibility. The device both physically resembles and functions like its namesake: Hard drive attachments containing movies, books, magazines and other content are placed on the Bookshelf for use. As attachments are added, the Bookshelf becomes its own multimedia library custom-built by its owner

The device won the $50,000 Judge's Award at Microsoft's Next Generation Windows PC Design Competition.

The Bookshelf's CPU is a 7-inch cube which operates hard-drive attachments supplied by digital service providers, allowing them to protect copyrights while still accommodating user convenience and portability. -- Purdue University

Less Taxing

Pinellas County, Fla., Tax Collector Diane Nelson will begin online tax certificate sales this summer. Tax certificate sales let investors purchase property tax liens on real-estate parcels whose owners have not paid their annual taxes. The process allows the county tax collector to collect virtually 100 percent of taxes levied and gives added time for the delinquent taxpayer to repay.

The tax certificate sale is conducted as a reverse auction, giving the investor who bids the lowest interest rate the right to buy the certificate. The intended outcome is to mitigate the burden so the delinquent taxpayer can eventually repay. -- National Association of Counties

City TV

The National City Network (NCN) officially debuted December 2005 at the Congress of Cities in Charlotte, N.C.

The NCN is designed to provide a gateway for cities and towns across the country to learn about municipal issues and share information with each other. The NCN delivers city-related content via a Web portal, with policy analysis from respected think tanks, upcoming events and topical news stories from sources across the country.

NCN TV creates a multimedia experience, with a video archive of feature stories about cities, teleconferences and news events. In the coming months, NCN

Jessica Jones, Contributing Writer  |  Contributing Writer
Shane Peterson  |  Associate Editor