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High-tech creationism

Taking design clues from the natural world, NASA scientists are developing an intelligent robot snake to explore distant planets. Modeled after a terrestrial snake, the man-made serpent called a snakebot will be able to travel independently and negotiate obstacles a wheeled or tracked vehicle might not overcome.

The snakebot's greatest advantages are simplicity of design and mobility. According to Gary Haith, lead snakebot engineer at NASA's Ames Research Center the robotic snake can "inchworm" ahead, flip backward over low obstacles, coil and side-wind.

"The snake will provide us with flexibility and robustness in space," says Mr. Haith, who predicts the snakebot could be ready for space in five years.

-- Alexander Colhoun

Digital safe deposit boxes

Metal safe deposit boxes have been a longtime staple of the banking industry. But that was last century.

With a new federal law, which took effect Oct. 1, making digitally signed documents legally binding, valuable electronic documents are now as sure to pile up on computer hard drives as their paper predecessors did in metal file cabinets.

It's only natural that banks would step in and offer secure storage havens. FleetBoston Financial Corp. on Tuesday launched an online safe deposit box system called fileTRUST and declares itself the first major US bank to offer the service.

The virtual boxes will offer 24-hour access to whatever digital information a customer chooses to store inside them.

Fleet's fileTRUST is not unique, however. Several smaller banks offer similar services, including BankAtlantic in Florida, the online bank NetBank, and Zions First National Bank in Utah.

-- Compiled from news wires

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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