Hands-On Power

Courtesy of Mike Curtis  TAG, YOU'RE SICK! School children learn about communicable diseases with handheld computers and a program called Cooties. In the 1830s, Charles Darwin used a pen and paper to document finches and other fauna and flora in the Galápagos Islands. For the next century and a half, most scientists relied on the same tools to take notes or collect data. Today, Dave Anderson, associate professor of biology at Wake Forest University, follows in Darwin's footsteps--

Mike May
Nov 16, 2003
Courtesy of Mike Curtis
 TAG, YOU'RE SICK! School children learn about communicable diseases with handheld computers and a program called Cooties.

In the 1830s, Charles Darwin used a pen and paper to document finches and other fauna and flora in the Galápagos Islands. For the next century and a half, most scientists relied on the same tools to take notes or collect data. Today, Dave Anderson, associate professor of biology at Wake Forest University, follows in Darwin's footsteps--walking the Galápagos coast, searching for albatrosses and Nazca boobies. Instead of using a pen, however, he collects data with a personal digital assistant (PDA). He's not the only one: Handheld devices now appear in science classrooms, experimental laboratories, and medical settings. These minicomputers have the potential to push science ahead at a faster pace and with more accurate results.

For the most part, anything that a scientist does on paper can be...