Television devotees who love their high-definition sets have a new reason to celebrate. Scientists at Sandia National Laboratories recently unveiled the sharpest screen yet. The 10-feet-tall, 13-feet-wide device boasts a 20-million-pixel digital display that approaches the visual acuity of the human eye. "The eyeball is the limiting factor, not the screen," project leader Philip Heermann says. "From ten feet away, the image is as good as your eyes are able to see."

But don't expect to watch a football game on the new screen. At Sandia, 64 computers work in unisonin a set-up analogous to parallel computingto project complex data sets onto the display, comprised of 16 screens arranged in a four-by-four matrix. The Sandia cluster, as it is called, can exhibit large data sets in seconds, and the researchers expect that the resulting images will provide a better view of the dynamics in complicated systems, such as fires. "It does not make sense to view a detailed 20- or 100-million-cell simulation on a standard one-million-pixel display," Heerman says.

The images projected on the Sandia screen are so detailed, the scientists point out, it's as if a single image taken by a camera 21,000 feet away captured every ear of corn on a 100-acre farm. Their next goal is to increase the resolution of the new screen even more to 64-million pixels, a task that will require two additional 16-projector arrays.