A picture may not be worth a thousand words to a scientist unless it can be manipulated to yield useful information. One way of gleaning such data is computerized image processing, a technique for quantifying visual images. With an image-process- ing system, a geologist can build contour maps from satellite photos, a plant physiologist can count and measure individual cells in a leaf, and a molecular biologist can analyze an autoradiograph from a DNA sequencing gel.

In the past decade, the computer technology of image processing and analysis has increased in sophistication, become accessible to scientists working with microcomputers, and dropped in price. A system generally includes a computer with a graphics card or special circuit board, called a "frame grabber," that digitizes images that are entered from a scanner, a VCR, or a microscope equipped with a camera. As a result of the boom in microcomputer-based systems, more and...

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