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Legislators Call for Action to Reverse the Shortage of American Scientists
Congressman Frank Wolf (R-Va.), supported by his colleagues Congressmen Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) and Vernon Ehlers (R-Mich.), Senator John Warner (R.Va.) and former Speaker Newt Gingrich, introduced the Math and Science Incentive Act of 2005. Wolf gave credit to Gingrich who has a strong interest in federal funding for the sciences and while in office, instructed his colleagues to avoid cutting funds for science and research. The bill establishes a new Education Department program and requires the government to pay up to $10,000 in interest on a student loan. In return, an individual agrees to work for 5 years in a job related to science, math or engineering, including teaching in those fields at any level. (From IEEE Eye on Congress)
Oxford Journals Launches Oxford Open — a new open access initiative
Oxford Journals, a division of Oxford University Press (OUP), has announced its latest Open Access (OA) project, Oxford Open. Commencing July 2005, it will offer an optional author-pays model to authors of accepted papers in a range of Oxford Journals titles. Oxford Journals has also amended its post-prints policy to be compliant with the latest National Institutes of Health (NIH) Public Access Policy. Both of these announcements further support Oxford Journals’ central remit, as a leading not-for-profit publisher, to bring the highest quality research to the widest possible audience.
Oxford Open will give published authors in participating Oxford Journals titles the option to pay for research articles to be freely available online immediately on publication. The open access charge for each article will be £1,500 or $2,800, with authors being given the option to pay this amount once their manuscript has been peer-reviewed and accepted for publication. Discounted author charges of £800 or $1,500 will be available to authors from institutions that maintain a current online subscription. Authors from developing countries will also be eligible for discounted rates. The online subscription prices of participating journals will be adjusted for 2007 and subsequent years, according to how much content was paid for by authors and thus freely available online during the previous year.
Oxford Open is a further addition to the current Oxford Journals OA experiments, with a variety of models being tested. These include Journal of Experimental Botany, eCAM, and Nucleic Acids Research, the latter being the first major science journal of such stature and prestige to move to a full Open Access model, in January 2005. Oxford Open will initially launch with a range of titles owned by Oxford Journals, with further journals being added to the scheme at a later date.
In addition, and with immediate effect, authors who publish with Oxford Journals are entitled to upload their accepted manuscript (“post-print”) to institutional and centrally organized repositories (including PubMed Central), but must stipulate that public availability be delayed until 12 months after first online publication in the journal unless the paper is being published within Oxford Open, in which case the post-print may be deposited and made freely available immediately the article is accepted for publication.
“Oxford Open is a logical extension to our current Open Access experiments, and will allow us to collect valuable first-hand data on the demand for Open Access by authors across a broad range of subjects,” commented Martin Richardson, Managing Director of Oxford Journals. “It also offers research funders a choice as to how quickly they wish the research results they fund to be made freely available online, without undermining the current business models that allow high-quality peer-reviewed journals, still highly-regarded by researchers as the preferred quality ‘kite-mark’ for their work, to continue to be viable in the long-term.”
Further details about Oxford Journals Author Self-Archiving Policy can be found at: http://www.oupjournals.org/selfarchivingpolicy. Register to receive further information about the Oxford Open Initiative as it becomes available using the Oxford Open Form: http://www.oupjournals.org/oxfordopen.
For further information contact:
Head of Marketing & Communications
Oxford University Press
Great Clarendon Street
Oxford, OX2 6DP UK
Tel: +44 1865 353388
High-Performance Computing Legislation Passes House
Last week the House of Representatives passed the High-Performance Computing Revitalization Act (H.R. 28). USACM and the Computing Research Association (CRA) praised the House’s action, with USACM Chair Gene Spafford commenting that “IT R&D — and especially investment in basic research and infrastructure — is an investment that pays enormous dividends … It fuels innovation that will help the U.S. retain world leadership in business, develop new jobs and industries, enhance public safety and national defense, and provide means to support research to live longer, healthier lives.”
The High-Performance Computing Program (also known as the Networking and Information Technology Research and Development Program or NITRD) sets up a collaborative multi-agency research, development, and deployment program focused on high-performance computing systems, software, and applications (among other things). The underlying law also established the President’s Information Technology Advisory Committee (PITAC), on which USACM has sitting members.
The legislation has three primary areas. The first rewrites the overarching goals of the program. The second makes minor changes to reporting requirements and PITAC. The third updates many participating agencies’ duties to reflect each agency’s mission. USACM sent a letter in February to House Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) commenting on the legislation.
The legislation now moves to the Senate for consideration. (From ACM Washington Update).
House Sets Priorities for Use of Supercomputers
The House passed amendments to the High-Performance Computing Act of 1991. HR 28, sponsored by Judy Biggert (R-Ill.), is designed to boost high-performance computer use in the U.S and calls for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) to coordinate supercomputing projects among federal agencies. HR 28 also requires the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Energy Department to ensure U.S. researchers and engineers have access to the most advanced computers and computer networks. The White House endorsed the legislation which lays out specific research priorities for various federal agencies. For instance, the National Institute of Standards and Technology would develop benchmark tests and standards for high-performance computing and networking systems. (From IEEE Eye on Washington)
The Universe is a Strange Place
Quote: “To be or not, the choice seems clear enough, but Hamlet vacillated, and so does this stuff.” — Frank Wilczek
In the final lecture from the Ford/MIT Nobel Laureate Lecture series, Frank Wilczek, 2004 Nobel Laureate in Physics explains the strangeness of the universe — and how it is “stranger than I thought” in a discussion on quarks, neutrons, gluons, the strong interaction, ordinary matter and dark matter. In doing so he recites his sonnet Virtual Particles, plays with equations, shares the experience winning the Nobel Prize, and tells Einstein’s favorite joke.
People, Prosperity and the Planet (P3) Program, May 16-17
The National Academy of Engineering is supporting the People, Prosperity and the Planet (P3) Program funded by the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Research & Development. The P3 competition brings together 66 teams from around the country to exhibit their designs for sustainability. On May 16 and 17, hundreds of the country’s most innovative college students will exhibit their designs on the National Mall in Washington, DC, and show us how they can help create a sustainable future.
Absorption + Transmission
“Absorption + Transmission,” an exhibition that uses the theme of light as a central component in Mike and Doug Starn's current work until July 15 at the National Academy of Sciences Building, 2100 C St. N.W., Washington, D.C. No reservations or tickets are required to view the exhibit, but a photo I.D. is necessary to enter the building.
Joel E. Cohen
The National Academy of Sciences’ InterViews Web site takes you into the lives and minds of the distinguished members of the NAS. Members talk about their research, why they became scientists and other aspects of their careers. At 14 Joel E. Cohen knew he wanted to be a mathematical biologist. Not only was it an interesting choice of career for such a young man, the field didn’t even exist yet.
“Traditionally, innovation is thought of as something manufacturers do … I found out that innovation didn’t come from manufacturers at all. Our research discovered that users develop many major new products. It turns the economics on its head.” — MIT Sloan professor Eric von Hippel makes the case for user driven innovation, citing a wide range of examples from his new book “Democratizing Innovation”.
Report to the National Science Board on the National Science Foundation’s Merit Review Process.
National patterns of research and development resources: 2003, special report.
Federal funds for research and development: fiscal years 2002, 2003, and 2004.
IEEE-USA Amicus Brief in the Case of “Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios v. Grokster”.
High performance government: Structure, Leadership, Incentives.
Interactive Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger of Disappearing.
Work of the Economic and Social Research Council.
UK Parliament, Science & Technology Committee, 2004.
Best Practising for the Licensing of Genomic Inventions: Final Notice.
Environmental innovation portfolio: strategic approaches for leading change.
Grants Management: Additional Actions Needed to Streamline and Simplify Processes.
GAO-05-335, April 18, 2005.
Soldiers in the Laboratory: Military Involvement in Science and Technology — and some Alternatives, by Chris Langley.
Scientists for Global Responsibility, 2005.
Memorandum on research collaboration between regulated industry and federal science agencies.
House Science Committee Democratic Staff, 2005.
NIH and EPA need to improve conflict of interest reviews for research arrangements with private entities.
Innovation: Applying Knowledge in Development, by Calestous Juma and Lee Yee-Cheong.
Strategic Science Provision in English Universities.
UK Parliament, Science & Technology Committee, 2005. (2 vols).
EPA needs to fulfill its designated responsibilities to ensure effective Biowatch program.
Work of Research Councils, UK.
UK Parliament, Science & Technology Committee, 2005.
Contaminants in the Subsurface: Source Zone Assessment and Remediation.
Equal employment opportunity: information on personnel actions, employee concerns and oversight at six DOE laboratories.
GAO, Feb. 2005.
Forensic Science on Trial,
UK Parliament, Science & Technology Committee, 2005. (2 vols).
Office of Science and Technology: Scrutiny Report 2004.
UK Parliament, Science & Technology Committee, 2005.
Decreasing Energy Intensity in Manufacturing: Assessing the Strategies and Future Directions of the Industrial Technologies Program (prepublication).
Radiative Forcing of Climate Change: Expanding the Concept and Addressing Uncertainties.
Interfaces for Ground and Air Military Robots: Workshop Summary.
Analyzing Information on Women-Owned Small Businesses in Federal Contracting.
Federal Agency Roles in Cancer Drug Development from Preclinical Research to New Drug Approval: The National Cancer Institute And The Food and Drug Administration (not for sale).
Signposts in Cyberspace: The Domain Name System and Internet Navigation (prepublication).
Defense Science Board Task Force on High Performance Microchip Supply.
Measuring Literacy: Performance Levels for Adults, Interim Report.
Cord Blood: Establishing a National Hematopoietic Stem Cell Bank Program.
Public Water Supply Distribution Systems: Assessing and Reducing Risks — First Report.
Complementary and Alternative Medicine in the United States.
Improving the Scientific Foundation for Atmosphere-Land-Ocean Simulations: Report of a Workshop.
Valuing Ecosystem Services: Toward Better Environmental Decision-Making.
Communicating Toxicogenomics Information to Nonexperts: A Workshop Summary.
High-Performance Structural Fibers for Advanced Polymer Matrix Composites.
Healers Abroad: Americans Responding to the Human Resource Crisis in HIV/AIDS.
Prospective Evaluation of Applied Energy Research and Development at DOE (Phase One): A First Look Forward.
Making Better Drugs for Children with Cancer.
Monitoring Nuclear Weapons and Nuclear-Explosive Materials: An Assessment of Methods and Capabilities.
Health Implications of Perchlorate Ingestion.
The Language of Life.
Creating a Disaster Resilient America: Grand Challenges in Science and Technology: Summary of a Workshop.
Nanotechnology for the Intelligence Community.
Guidelines for Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research.
WIC Food Packages: Time for a Change.
Assessment of the Scientific Information for the Radiation Exposure Screening and Education Program.
Earth Science and Applications from Space: Urgent Needs and Opportunities to Serve the Nation.
Effects of Nuclear Earth-Penetrator and Other Weapons.
Sustainability: Science, Practice, & Policy
Sustainability: Science, Practice, & Policy, a new peer-reviewed, open access journal, has launched publication. The e-journal provides a platform for the dissemination of new practices and for dialogue emerging out of the field of sustainability. It includes peer-reviewed full-text articles, guest editorials, and community essays. The guest editorial in the premier issue is by Edward O. Wilson, Pellegrino University Research Professor, Harvard University. Each issue presents a symposium exploring the sustainability issues relating to the topic.
Complete issues of Sustainability: Science, Practice, & Policy will be published twice a year and are available at no charge at http://ejournal.nbii.org/. In addition, articles for issues in progress will be posted after completing the peer-review and editorial process.
The journal is published as part of an ambitious government / private industry partnership between CSA and the National Biological Information Infrastructure (NBII).
For additional information about please access http://ejournal.nbii.org/about/about.html.
Classic Textbooks in Science
The best science texts have often played a role in defining fields of study, setting out in clear and vivid language the very foundations upon which whole scientific disciplines are built. Yet many classic books on science have been declared out of print by their publishers, victims of an unfavorable publishing environment, an author’s decision not to revise, or any of a host of other reasons unconnected with the timeless quality of their content. The National Academy of Sciences intends to present a digitized collection of out-of-print classics spanning a variety of fields. The first in the series, John A. Moore’s Heredity and Development, Second Edition, is presented in its entirety in both PDF and HTML formats. Simply click the links to enjoy an outstanding example of scientific content explained by one of the genetics discipline’s great teachers and writers.
John A. Moore, Heredity and Development, Second Edition
Einstein Year 2005 [pdf, Macromedia Flash Player]
Einstein Year marks the centenary of the three papers that Albert Einstein published in 1905, which of course, included the paper on photoelectric effect that led to his Nobel Prize in Physics. The primary aim of Einstein Year is “to enthuse young people, and those who influence them, about physics, whilst building a sustainable increase in public awareness of physics and its role in society.” On the site, visitors can learn about the various ongoing activities being coordinated around the world, read a biography about Einstein, and check out the “Experiment” section, where users can explore physics through a number of simple and thoughtful experiments. A real highlight of the site is the “If you could teach the world just one thing about science” feature, which was conducted by the online magazine, spiked. The magazine asked dozens of scientists what “one thing” they would pick to teach the world about science, and their responses (including a few video clips) are posted on the site. [KMG] (From the Scout Report)
NOVA: Garden of Eden
In “Garden of Eden,” NOVA journeys to the Seychelles, an ancient archipelago of about 100 islands scattered between India and Madagascar. The pristine granite and coral islands are home to a dazzling array of exotic plants and animals. One island, Praslin, boasts rare or unique species of geckos, snails, snakes, parrots, and bats. Aldabra, the largest atoll in the world, harbors in its lagoon a profusion of wildlife: sharks, frigate birds with seven-foot wingspans, rare robber crabs, spectacularly colored parrot fish, mangrove forests and the world’s largest colony of giant tortoises, numbering some 150,000.
Here’s what you’ll find online:
Hey kids, are you the type who bristles when someone on TV says, “Don’t try this at home” because you feel like, uh … trying stuff at home? Well don’t let your contrarian impulses get the best of you by taking a pass on a site that’s designed to bring chemical reactions into your life. Ratlab provides the recipes and steps for such fiendish experiments as turning pennies different colors (Coke, lemon juice, and ketchup required), making giant bubbles (you’ll need a coat hanger and pipe cleaners), and making a mini-rocket (Alka Seltzer tablet not included). Each experiment also comes with a “Why does it work?” section, explaining the science behind the process. The “Strange but true” page answers such questions as “Why does spaghetti always snap into three pieces when you break it?” (It does?) So go ahead, get to work. Before your parents get home. (From Yahoo’s Picks of the Week)
Advancing Knowledge and the Knowledge Economy [doc, pdf]
The attention paid to the burgeoning “knowledge economy” continues to grow, particularly within the halls of higher education, the federal government, and in the private sector. This past January, the National Science Foundation (in collaboration with other institutions) convened a conference designed “to broaden and deepen common understanding of how difficult-to-measure knowledge resources drive an increasing virtualized economy and to assess prospects for advancing and regenerating knowledge infrastructure, institutions, and policies.” While the conference itself is finished, users interested in these themes will appreciate this site, which offers some material about these various issues, along with material on the program itself and the work presented there. After examining these background materials, visitors will want to peruse the draft papers presented at the conference, which deal with networks of knowledge, measuring knowledge, and knowledge clusters. [KMG] (From the Scout Report)
National Geographic’s Strange Days on Planet Earth
Teaming up with PBS, National Geographic has created an intriguing four-part documentary series titled “Strange Days on Planet Earth” that is meant to explore a number of events and processes (such as climatic change and invasive species) and their long- and short-term effects across the planet. Hosted by actor Edward Norton, the serie’s producers have also created this complementary website where interested parties can learn more about these processes. For example, in the “One Degree Factor” section (which explores global climatic change), users can read interviews with experts working in this field and also learn about the relevance of this process to their own lives. The site also contains a nice glossary of terms and a place where individuals can offer their own comments on the program. [KMG] (From the Scout Report)
Dig Into Science
Get tips on gardening from green-thumb experts at the new Accidental Scientist: Gardening Web site, launching on Sunday, May 15. Delve into the biology of plants and the mechanisms of photosynthesis. Unearth factors that lead plants to grow (or not!). Discover the science of gardening!
“Around the country, a number of academic departments in a host of natural science fields have assembled databases of images that are meant to be utilized by researchers and the general public alike. One such project is the Bioimages database, developed by the Department of Biological Sciences at Vanderbilt University. Working in cooperation with a number of other participating institutions and agencies, the department has created this site that allows visitors to peruse a number of detailed image databases. The databases cover a wide range of topical and geographical areas, such as southeastern US plants and an area dedicated to providing information on plant features. Parties interested in submitting images for use on the database may also do so if they wish, or more casual visitors may want to download a few desktop images for display on their own computer. [KMG]” (From the Scout Report)
The Genographic Project
Like the expatriate Parisian painter Gauguin who journeyed to the South Pacific, you may ask yourself, “Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?” On this National Geographic site you’ll find a wealth of information answering those questions, from a genetics overview to an interactive atlas. The Genographic Project also invites you to uncover your own genetic migratory profile. Here’s how it works: The site requests a donation of $99.95. In return, you get a kit that lets you participate online. Send in an anonymous cheek swab, and then log in securely to track your DNA analysis and explore your genetic lineage. Ancient mutations and migrations are encoded in the Y-chromosome (in males) and in mitochondrial DNA (in females), where they reveal clues to geographic origins and inheritance patterns — yours! Untangle your roots. (in DNA and Genetics) (From Yahoo’s Picks of the Week)
There’s a mystery or two to be solved here, and DNA a-plenty to use in the sleuthing! Or, you can explore the coiling mysteries of the DNA molecule itself. Other interactives at this engaging site walk you through the science of cloning, teach you how to splice genes together, and probe into the mechanics of gene therapy. Lots to do and learn! (From ENC Digital Dozen)
Rediscovering the Ivory Billed Woodpecker
The Ivory Billed Woodpecker Has Returned
Ivory Billed Woodpecker Rediscovered in Arkansas
Wikipedia: Ivory Billed Woodpecker
Cache River National Wildlife Refuge
LANDSAT image of Cache River NWR
Long thought to be extinct, there is now a real possibility that this bird has survived in Arkansas.
NOVA: Secrets of the Crocodile Caves
“In a remote corner of Madagascar, an extraordinary lost world is shut off from the outside by razor-sharp limestone cliffs, impenetrable spiny vegetation, and underground caves filled with a species of man-eating crocodiles. Deep inside the forest thrive colonies of crowned lemurs, exquisite little primate cousins with large eyes, nimble hands, and soft velvet fur. Their cute appearance disguises their character as tough team players, relying on the leadership of a strong female to survive the many dangers confronting them. And as this program reveals, no peril is greater than the jaws of the giant crocodiles, the world’s only cave-living crocs.”
ENC Classroom Calendar
The Eisenhower National Clearinghouse presents a monthly calendar with links to resources you can use for teaching math and science. The calendar connects topics to seasonal events and interests, birthdays of mathematicians and scientists, and dates of important inventions and discoveries. Each entry offers practical ideas for activities and carefully selected resources on its topic. Most entries are correlated to national mathematics and science standards.
The Great Transatlantic Cable
“In the modern era of instantaneous communication, it is perhaps difficult to imagine a world only 130 years ago where sending messages and other items to Europe was a rather time-consuming affair. Transatlantic communications were vastly improved when Cyrus Field, a New York paper manufacturer, completed construction of a 2,000-mile-long cable beneath the Atlantic in 1866. This delightful website is designed to complement the American Experience documentary on the construction of the cable, and will be of great interest to those with a penchant for the history of technology. Visitors can learn about the laborious process involved with the construction of the cable, take part in an online poll, and learn about the science behind the transatlantic cable. Additional materials include a detailed timeline of related events, additional interviews with experts in the field, and a selection of cable-related humor from the period.” [KMG] (From the Scout Report)
Wave That Shook the World
On December 26, 2004, at 7:59 a.m. local time, an undersea section of the Earth’s crust slipped along a 700-mile-long fault off the coast of Sumatra, setting in motion a train of destructive waves called tsunamis that left well over 250,000 people dead or missing. In “Wave That Shook the World,” NOVA traces exactly what happened, and why. The program tells the minute-by-minute story of the 2004 tsunami, featuring video footage, eyewitness interviews, and scientific analysis of the onrushing waves that spread for 3,000 miles around the Indian Ocean basin.
Here’s what you’ll find on the companion Web site:
National Science Foundation: Sea Vent Viewer
The National Science Foundation sponsors thousands of substantial research projects every year across a very broad range of scholarly fields, and this recent provocative addition to the NSF’s Earth & Environmental Science site will be of real interest to many. This particular feature allows visitors to explore the area of the ocean floor in and around a sea vent, complete with various interactive features. For those who are not already aware of sea vents, they support a rich ecosystem that includes fish, shrimp, tubeworms, mussels, crabs, and clams. The water from these sea vents comes out at close to 756 degrees Fahrenheit and appears to gush out in the same manner as smoke. Browsing through this underwater world, visitors can learn about the vents and the diverse life forms that exist 1.5 miles beneath the surface of the ocean. [KMG] (From the Scout Report)
“Hunt for the Supertwister”
The spring and early summer of 2003 was one of the most severe tornado seasons on record, and NOVA’s cameras have captured breathtaking footage of scientist stormchasers in action. Our story focuses on the first-time efforts of a team at the University of Oklahoma to test a groundbreaking technique for predicting severe storms. With the help of powerful supercomputers and radar arrays, the team believes it can achieve an unprecedented degree of forecasting. But another scientific team takes a very different approach, laying their lives on the line to chase violent twisters across the fields of Oklahoma. NOVA takes a thrilling ride with these tornado hunters and investigates the ingenious new approaches that may one day help the forecasters stay one step ahead of a devastating twister.
Here’s what you’ll find on the companion Web site:
Also, Links & Books, a video preview of the program, the program transcript, and a teacher’s guide.
Dinosaur ‘Missing Link’ Found in Utah
“Bizarre” New Dinosaur Shows Evolution to Plant Eating, Study Says
Dinosaur embraced vegetarianism
Walking with Dinosaurs
Dinosaurs: Facts and Fiction
Paul Sereno: Paleontologist [pdf]
Recently, a team of researchers in a remote area of eastern Utah led by Utah state paleontologist James I. Kirkland made an important discovery that has been described as a type of dinosaur “missing link”. Essentially, this “link” represents a rather primitive plant-eater that evolved from the meat-eating raptors that also gave rise to modern birds. The dinosaur has been named Falcarius utahensis, which means “sickle-maker from Utah”, largely due to its claws. The results of this important find were documented in this Thursday’s edition of the journal Nature, and this material supports earlier contentions that link the plant-eating dinosaurs known as therizinosaurs to raptors. Matthew Lamanna from the Carnegie Museum of Natural History remarked that “It’s an extremely significant find. Before this discovery, the oldest known animal recognized as a therizinosaur came from China, and this one is just as old and seems to be more primitive anatomically. It appears to be the final piece of the puzzle.”
The first link leads to an article from this Wednesday’s Washington Post that offers some perspective on the find from the paleontologist James I. Kirkland. The second link will take visitors to a fine news story from the National Geographic’s website that provides a good perspective on this important discovery. The third link offers some informed insights from Nature’s own Michael Hopkins on this discovery. The fourth link leads to a very informative site from BBC on dinosaurs, which includes fact files on a number of dinosaurs, a timeline, and some interactive games and screensavers. The fifth link will take visitors to a very useful FAQ site, offered by the United States Geological Survey, which answers a number of common queries about dinosaurs, such as “Where did dinosaurs live?” and “Did dinosaurs communicate?”. The final link leads to the homepage of that noted University of Chicago paleontologist, Paul Sereno. Here visitors can learn about his work and expeditions, among other things. [KMG] (From the Scout Report)
Project Links: mathematics and its applications in engineering and science
Animations, applets, videos, and images — what more could anyone want, at least when it comes to linking math to real-world engineering applications? These modules cover topics such as advanced math methods, probability and statistics, differential equations, and discrete mathematics. They are designed to fit into existing curriculum units rather than as replacements. (From ENC Digital Dozen)
Messenger: Mercury Surface, Space Environment, Geochemistry, and Ranging
Information about the “NASA Discovery mission to conduct this orbital study of the innermost planet.” Messenger launched in August 2004. It should be “in position to enter Mercury orbit in March 2011.” The site provides a FAQ, an overview of the mission, status reports, facts about the planet Mercury, information for students and teachers, related links, and more. From John Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (JHU/APL). (From Librarian’s Index to the Internet)
Mathematics Made Accessible: New Ways to Search for Mathematical Formulas
Searching the Web for formulas having particular mathematical elements of interest has been difficult and usually not very fruitful. Mathematics is generally indexed poorly in text-based search engines and there are a multiplicity of ways to express even simple mathematics. For example, the square root of x might appear in some instances as sqrt(x) and in others as x^(1/2).
As part of the NSDL-funded Second Generation Mathematic Resources project, new features have been added to the Wolfram Research Functions Website to enable genuine mathematical searching of the more than 87,000 formulas cataloged by the site. The search interface allows students and researchers to search for formulas containing specific functions, operations, embedded patterns, etc. in a variety of combinations. Links are provided on search results listings so that users also can search for additional formulas mathematically similar to a formula discovered in an initial search. From this same site students also can view dynamically generated 2-D and 3-D plots of many of the functions cataloged (for example http://functions.wolfram.com/webMathematica/FunctionPlotting.jsp?name=Cos). This site illustrates new ways to think about searching for scientific resources and interact with mathematically rich content. Related link: http://functions.wolfram.com/ — William Mischo, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
The Nobel Prize in Physics
The Nobel Foundation provides a host of animated and interactive materials to educate individuals about the fascinating world of physics at this website. Through clear articles and helpful images, students can discover the principles of special relativity, quantum mechanics, vacuum tubes, x-rays, and accelerators. The website offers an interactive microscope simulator, a pictorial tutorial of how to prepare specimen, and an interesting photo gallery of fluorescence microscope. Users can play online games to learn about liquid crystals, lasers, and transistors. This website will kindle everyone’s interests in physics. [RME] (From the Scout Report)
A Century of Einstein
This intriguing MSNBC website addresses how Einstein’s theories still affect the world we live in today. Users can view a Macromedia Flash Player-enhanced slide show summarizing Einstein’s life and major accomplishments. Visitors can download the five papers from 1905, Einstein’s “miracle year.” Students can find a helpful interactive module discussing the principles of relativity and its importance. The website discusses Einstein’s personality and beliefs and hypothesizes how Einstein might have faired in today’s world. Users can learn about the questions dealing with dark matter and dark energy that scientists are still trying to understand today. [RME] (From the Scout Report)
Comets and Meteor Showers
IMO: The International Meteor Organization [gif]
The American Meteor Society [jpeg]
NAMN: North American Meteor Network
Association of Lunar & Planetary Observers (A.L.P.O.) Meteors Section
The Meteoritical Society
Meteorites from Antarctica [jpeg, Microsoft Word]
Paper Plate Education: Meteor Shower [gif]
First, Gary Kronk, sponsored by the American Meteor Society, provides information on the meteor shower, The Leonids, as well as a meteor-observing calendar (1). Users can also learn about the differences between comets and meteors. The second website features the International Meteor Organization’s (IMO) research, news, software, and observational results (2). Students can learn about the many observation methods such as telescopic and fireball observations. Next, the American Meteor Society promotes meteor astronomy research activities of both amateurs and professionals (3). Visitors can view fascinating meteor images, learn about the Meteor Spectroscopy Project, discover recent meteor observations, and much more. The fourth website presents the North American Meteor Network’s (NAMN) function to promote astronomy, teach the methods of meteor observation, and coordinate observations (4). Users can find data on recent meteor and fireball observations. Next, the Association of Lunar & Planetary Observers (A.L.P.O.) Meteors Section furnishes highlights of upcoming and recent meteor showers (5). Individuals can also find detailed descriptions of each week’s meteor activities. At the sixth website, the Meteoritical Society offers materials on news, events, and resources about meteorites, asteroids, and other planetary phenomena (6). Educators can find a series of links to educational websites. Astronomers can learn about meteoritic publications, membership opportunities, and research. Next, NASA offers a database of Antarctic meteorites (7). The website supplies the _Antarctic Meteorite Newsletter_, sample request forms and guidelines, and information on meteorite collection and interpretation. Lastly, Paper Plate Education, supported by DePaul University, the Office of Space Science Center for Education and Outreach, the Space Telescope Science Institute, and the Great Lakes Planetarium Association, teaches students about the path of meteors through an entertaining hands-on activity (8). The activity, to be done during a meteor shower, requires only a star chart, which can be printed from the website, and a paper plate. [RME] (From the Scout Report)
Lakota Winter Counts
“Different human societies across the millennia have sought to record their histories in a multitude of ways, and the Lakota people of the Northern Plains elected to record their experiences through what are known as winter counts. These winter counts are essentially histories or calendars in which events are recorded by pictures, with one picture for each year. These rather fascinating documents were used in conjunction with extensive oral histories, and as such, most of these events were widely known and recognized by a majority of the Lakota. This particular website from the National Anthropological Archives at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History allows visitors to view these winter counts, learn more about the Lakota, and view interviews with contemporary Lakota people about the winter counts. The site also contains an audio glossary and a number of helpful resources for educators. [KMG]” (From the Scout Report)
Development Gateway: Public Sector Transparency
The Scout Report has profiled various offerings from the Development Gateway in the past several years, but one of the group’s latest creations is both thought-provoking and helpful for policy-makers and persons generally interested in the subject of governance. This particular site casts an eye on the question of transparency in governmental transactions through interviews with leaders from a broad range of sectors, along with allowing space for individual feedback. The “Points of View” section is a good place to start, as it includes commentary from government officials from Bolivia, Guatemala, and Tanzania about the question of public sector transparency. Other sections on the site address such thorny questions as “What tools help sustain public sector transparency?” and “What practices promote public-private partnerships?” Those visual learners coming to visit the site may appreciate the gallery of charts that offer indicators of levels of governance and transparency for more than 209 countries. [KMG] (From the Scout Report)
Reading a map is about more than finding a way from point A to point Z. Topographic maps take you to new heights — and depths — of navigation and of understanding the lay of the land. This web site illuminates the art of reading a topographic map through animations and QuickTime movies that let you “fill in the blanks” on representative maps. (From ENC Digital Dozen)
POxy: Oxyrhynchus Online
Background information about the Oxyrhynchus papyri, which were excavated from the site of Oxyrhynchus, a regional capital in Hellenistic and Roman Egypt. Features illustrated essays about the city and the documents found there (including letters, tax returns, and government documents). Also includes a glossary, a searchable database and updates on the imaging of the papyri located at the Oxford University libraries, and locations of the rest of the papyri. (From Librarian’s Index to the Internet)
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HEARINGS FOCUS ON LIBRARY PROVISIONS OF USA PATRIOT ACT
Amid both House and Senate hearings on whether to renew certain portions of the USA PATRIOT Act, supporters and critics of Section 215, which authorizes law enforcement to obtain records from libraries and other institutions, have lined up to voice their opinions. Section 215 allows gaining access to various types of records with only the approval of a secret court. Further, those whose information has been collected are barred from disclosing that fact, even to attorneys. Representatives of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which has been highly critical of the legislation, said they could support its renewal if several concessions were made, including limiting the authority to investigate only “agent[s] of a foreign power” and eliminating the gag order for those under investigation. Groups including the American Library Association said they supported the ACLU’s recommendations. Rep. Howard Coble (R-N.C.) defended the law as it stands, saying there has been much “misinformation” about Section 215 and how it has been used. Kenneth L. Wainstein, U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, said that the law has not been used to obtain records from libraries, though he acknowledged that it could be used that way in the future.
Chronicle of Higher Education, 29 April 2005 (sub. req’d)via Edupage
NSF WORKING ON CYBERINFRASTRUCTURE PLAN
Arden L. Bement Jr., director of the National Science Foundation (NSF), this week told attendees of an Internet2 meeting in Virginia that the NSF is developing a plan to support development of the nation’s cyberinfrastructure, including that of colleges and universities. Bement said that funding for cyberinfrastructure is “one of the most important investments of the 21st century,” though the announcement was short on specifics. The NSF’s Cyberinfrastructure Interim Working Group submitted a report to Bement that reportedly outlines the details of the plan, but the agency said it will not release the report until some issues are cleared up. In his comments, Bement noted that higher education in particular is in need of improvements. What he described as six-lane superhighways for data “are reduced to two-lane roads at most college and university campuses.” Such “information overload,” as he called it, impedes research from being conducted efficiently. Still, Bement noted that money for the NSF “is not plentiful” and that it will likely be even scarcer in the future.
Chronicle of Higher Education, 4 May 2005 (sub. req’d) via Edupage
PROPOSED DATABASE WORRIES SECURITY EXPERTS
Amid a rash of corporate and institutional data breaches recently, security experts are questioning whether a “unit record” database proposed by the Department of Education could be kept secure. Currently the department collects aggregate data on college students and graduation rates. A unit record database would track individual students through their college careers, presenting what some see as an extremely tempting target for hackers. The current system would force a hacker to “compromise several databases,” according to Eugene Spafford, professor of computer sciences and electrical and computer engineering at Purdue University, whereas with a database like the one proposed, “it’s possible to attack it from any point in the system.” Barbara Simons, former president of the Association for Computing Machinery, was also concerned about a unit record database, suggesting that it might not be the safest way to accomplish the department’s goals. Grover Whitehurst, director of the Institute of Education Sciences at the Education Department, said the agency is investigating security options for the proposed database and welcomes suggestions. He noted that the system might not use Social Security numbers as identifiers and said that if the information in the system were limited in scope, it would not be very appealing to hackers.
Chronicle of Higher Education, 6 May 2005 (sub. req’d) via Edupage
BLUE GENE/L SPEED RECORD BROKEN, BY BLUE GENE/L
The still-unfinished Blue Gene/L supercomputer, being built by IBM at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, has reached a processing speed of 135.3 trillion floating point operations per second (teraflops), smashing the record it set last year of 70.72 teraflops. When complete, the Blue Gene/L supercomputer will have a theoretical processing capacity of 360 teraflops. Developers of the machine doubled the number of racks in the system — to 32 — to achieve the new record. Each rack holds 1,024 processors; Blue Gene will eventually include 64 racks. Scientists at the Lawrence Livermore Lab, which is part of the U.S. Department of Energy, will use Blue Gene to study the nation’s stockpile of nuclear weapons, without the need to perform dangerous underground testing.
BBC, 25 March 2005 (via Edupage)
FEWER COLLEGE STUDENTS PURSUING COMPUTER SCIENCE DEGREES
A new report from the Computing Research Association (CRA) shows a significant drop in the number of college freshmen in the United States who say they plan to major in computer science. The CRA looked at data from the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California at Los Angeles and found that between fall of 2000 and fall of 2004, interest in computer science fell by more than 60 percent and is now 70 percent below its all-time high. Interest among women has fallen even further, said the CRA, dropping 80 percent since 1998 and 93 percent since 1982. The CRA also conducted surveys of higher education institutions and came up with similar results. The report goes on to suggest that the United States will have difficulty meeting the demand for IT workers in coming years, increasing the gap with countries including India and China that are producing larger numbers of computer science graduates. “Freshmen interest levels at any given point have been an accurate predictor of trends in the number of degrees granted four to five years later,” according to the report.
CNET, 22 April 2005 via Edupage
UC ELECTRONIC RESERVES RANKLE PUBLISHERS
A system that handles electronic reserves at the University of California (UC) in San Diego has prompted complaints from publishers that the university has far exceeded the bounds of fair use. With the system, materials that faculty put on reserve are made available electronically, allowing students to access and even print them from outside the university library. The Association of American Publishers objected, saying that electronic access substantially changes the traditional terms of reserve materials and deprives publishers of sales. Publishers have previously won legal challenges to the production of coursepacks, which the courts said do not fall under the terms of fair use. The publishing group insisted the same applies to electronic resources. Representatives of UC disputed the claims, saying the reserve system does not infringe on sales of texts. Jonathan Franklin, associate law librarian at the University of Washington, noted that the fair use law is not clear and commented that if the disagreement is ultimately settled by the courts, such a resolution might provide needed clarification for all concerned.
Chronicle of Higher Education, 7 April 2005 (sub. req’d) via Edupage
RESEARCHERS WORK TO EXTEND TECHNOLOGY TO VISUALLY IMPAIRED
Researchers at Queen’s University in Belfast, Ireland, are beginning work on a three-year project to extend the benefits of technology to users who are blind or visually impaired. Funded by a 3.8 million euro grant from the European Union, the project will include 13 other universities and organizations from around Europe. Alan Marshall, professor at Queen’s University, noted that people with disabilities are unable to benefit from many of the advantages of technology because of the design of the technology itself. The disparity between those who can use technology to its fullest and those who cannot will widen if steps are not taken to address it, according to Marshall. The project will address such topics as tactile displays and audio aids, and researchers will also look into using technology to help people with visual impairments participate in a variety of activities. For example, Marshall described a system of devices in shopping centers that would automatically identify themselves to wireless devices. Those with such devices could walk through a shopping center and know what stores they were near and could locate others.
BBC, 19 April 2005 via Edupage
RESEARCHERS TEST DATA FLOW FOR GRID COMPUTING
Researchers at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, have completed a test with seven other organizations in Europe and the United States in which 500 terabytes of data were transferred over 10 days. Scientists at CERN are developing what they expect will be the world’s largest computing grid, and the ability to transfer enormous amounts of information is key to the grid’s functioning. The recent test was the second in a series of four addressing the capacity of the system. The total amount of data transferred — which reached an average data flow rate of 600 megabytes per second for the duration of the test — would take about 250 years using a typical broadband connection. Vicky White, head of the Computing Division of the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, one of the participants, noted that although large data transfers have been done in the past, they were primarily in short bursts. “Sustaining such high rates of data for days on end to multiple sites is a breakthrough,” she said.
The Register, 27 April 2005 via Edupage
CODING CONTEST SHOWS U.S. STUDENTS FALLING BEHIND
At this year’s Association for Computing Machinery International Collegiate Programming Contest, the University of Illinois’s tie for 17th place was the best result for any U.S. team, representing the worst performance for U.S. institutions in the 29 years of the competition. Many observers believe the result is indicative of a variety of factors that have resulted in a striking shift in technological preeminence away from U.S. schools and companies. As recently as 1997, the United States came out on top, when a team from Harvey Mudd College won the competition. David Patterson, president of the Association for Computing Machinery and a computer science professor at the University of California, Berkeley, noted, “The U.S. used to dominate these kinds of programming Olympics.” Others pointed out that applications from outside the United States to computer science and other technology programs at U.S. graduate schools have dropped lately.
ZDNet, 7 April 2005 via Edupage
COMMITTEE SUPPORTS FUNDING FOR MINORITY-SERVING INSTITUTIONS
The Science Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives has passed a bill that would create a $250 million grant program in the Department of Commerce to support technology programs at minority-serving institutions. Budgets at many historically black colleges and universities, Hispanic-serving institutions, and tribal colleges cannot support up-to-date technologies. Supporters argue that the bill would provide much-needed funding to institutions that train growing numbers of high-tech workers, specifically from underrepresented groups. Similar bills have been passed in previous sessions of Congress, but none has made its way to the president’s desk for signing. Even if the current bill, which has not been introduced in the Senate, is approved by both houses and signed by the president, it remains unclear whether the federal government would allocate funds for the program, given the current budget deficit.
Chronicle of Higher Education, 5 May 2005 (sub. req’d) via Edupage
BRITS UNVEIL CREATIVE ARCHIVE
The BBC has launched an initiative known as the Creative Archive to disseminate creative works across the United Kingdom. Modeled on the Creative Commons in the United States, the Creative Archive License invites users to download creative materials and use them however they desire, with a few stipulations. Users of content must cite the creator; allow others to use newly created works in the same manner; not use content for commercial gain; and limit use to within the United Kingdom. The archive is relatively small so far, containing works only from the British Film Institute, but a spokesperson from the BBC said the group hopes eventually to make available a vast quantity of content currently unavailable to the public. She noted that because of the wide range of copyright concerns, those posting content must work carefully and thoroughly to meet all requirements. Lawrence Lessig, professor at Stanford Law School and one of the founders of Creative Commons, applauded the Creative Archive, saying that the BBC is inviting consumers to become part of the creative process rather than just receivers. He said he hopes the program helps U.S. users “think more progressively about this issue.”
Wired News, 18 April 2005 via Edupage
MOVING BEYOND LISTS FOR SEARCHING THE WEB
Supporters of non-text-based representations of Web search results got a boost this week as Groxis, the makers of Grokker, released a version of the software that runs as a Java plug-in for browsers. Previously, the software, which returns search results in a circular “map,” was only available as a separate, $49 application. The company will now depend on revenue from advertisements placed next to search results by search engine Yahoo. For the past nine months, 2,000 students and faculty of Stanford University have been testing the Grokker software, which has earned a strong following there. Michael A. Keller, Stanford’s head librarian and an adviser to Groxis, said the application allows users to find appropriate information more quickly. Another company, Vivisimo, is developing a search engine that, while still text-based, displays groups of folders next to ranked lists of results. The folders give users another method of sifting through search results for useful resources.
New York Times, 9 May 2005 (registration req’d) via Edupage
MODEL SUPPORTS ARCHIVING OF DIGITAL INFORMATION
The Center for Technology in Government at the University at Albany has created a toolkit to aid in the preservation of digital content. The project was funded by an $800,000 grant from the National Science Foundation, and the toolkit will be distributed to states and territories as part of the National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program. Federal laws specify requirements for the preservation of paper documents, but the arena of electronics records remains largely unregulated. According to Brian Burke, the Center for Technology in Government’s project manager, this results in inconsistent procedures from state to state for preserving digital material. Librarians and archivists from around the country are saying that “there’s tons of information that’s being lost or predicted to be lost,” said Burke. The toolkit focuses on establishing predictable policies and communication among states and territories so that various agencies can work together to preserve digital content consistently.
Federal Computer Week, 30 March 2005 via Edupage
DARPA FUNDS DIVERTED FROM UNIVERSITIES
Confirming rumors among academics at a number of colleges and universities, the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has acknowledged a shift away from university projects. DARPA has long been a supporter of broad-ranging, long-term research initiatives at institutions of higher education, and many credit such programs with many of the innovations that underpin today’s household technologies. In seeking shorter-term projects with more concrete deliverables, however, DARPA has significantly cut back funds for university projects. Since 2001, the portion of DARPA’s relatively stable budget allocated to university projects has dropped by nearly 50 percent. Many in the research community fear that the shift away from basic, open-ended research will result in slower technological progress. Ed Lazowska, a computer scientist at the University of Washington and co-chairman of the President’s Information Technology Advisory Committee, said, “Virtually every aspect of information technology upon which we rely today bears the stamp of federally sponsored university research.” He characterized DARPA’s change in focus as “killing the goose that laid the golden egg.”
New York Times, 2 April 2005 (registration req’d) via Edupage
SOUTH DAKOTA HIGH SCHOOLS EAGER FOR DISTANCE EDUCATION
A distance education program in South Dakota is having to deal with the difficulties of being perhaps too popular. The Center for Statewide E-learning was set up to provide college-prep courses — which are required for a state financial aid program — to high school students at schools that do not offer them. Many districts in the state are located in very rural areas and cannot afford to hire faculty to teach such classes. The popularity of the program, operated at Northern State University, has led the state’s legislature to pass a bill assigning levels of need to various schools. According to Erika Tallman, director of the center, registration begins at 9:00 a.m., and five minutes later “we have about 1,000 registrations.” Tallman said no students have so far been left out, but some are put on waiting lists.
Chronicle of Higher Education, 8 April 2005 (sub. req’d) via Edupage
REPORT SUPPORTS DISTANCE EDUCATION
A program that exempts certain institutions from the “50 percent rule” has been a success and should be significantly expanded, according to the U.S. Department of Education. The rule, which bars federal financial aid from students attending institutions that either offer more than half of their courses online or enroll more than half of their students in online programs, was implemented to act as a check on diploma mills and other shady online degree programs. According to a report from the Education Department, those schools that have been granted exemptions have seen enormous growth in enrollments, particularly of less affluent and nontraditional students. The rate of growth in access to education for those groups prompted the department to call for an immediate expansion of the program to 100 institutions, up from the current cap of 35, and for the end of the 50 percent rule when the Higher Education Act is renewed, either this year or next. While pleased at the increased access to education that relaxing the rule has led to, many higher education organizations said eliminating the rule would be unwise. Becky Timmons, director of government relations at the American Council of Education, said, “One enormous opportunity for abuse in distance education is rapid expansion.”
Inside Higher Ed, 13 April 2005 via Edupage
PITAC CALLS FOR MORE COMPUTER-BASED RESEARCH
A summary of an upcoming report from the President’s Information Technology Advisory Panel (PITAC) calls on the federal government and higher education to take steps toward greater use of computational science in research. The panel urges using computers to complement research efforts in a wide range of fields. Too often, colleges and universities reward researchers for work in their primary fields of study, discouraging efforts at including technology in research projects, according to Daniel A. Reed, vice chancellor for information technology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a member of PITAC. Members of the panel did not offer specific recommendations about how to achieve integration of computers and other fields of research, but they conceded that financial incentives will likely be necessary. The report summary said that federal agencies must reorganize themselves to achieve the goal and recommended outlining a plan to do so that extends decades into the future.
Chronicle of Higher Education, 15 April 2005 (sub. req’d) via Edupage
COMPUTER APPLICATION GRADES ESSAYS
A professor at the University of Missouri has developed a computer application that grades papers and offers advice on writing. Ed Brent, professor of sociology, created the application, called Qualrus, using a $100,000 grant from the National Science Foundation. Qualrus evaluates papers based on the structure of sentences and paragraphs and on the flow of ideas. Instructors can specify which factors of an assignment are most important, and Qualrus incorporates that information into the scores it provides. Brent claims the application improves students’ papers and estimated that it saves him more than 200 hours of grading per semester. The tool has been approved for use across the university, but so far Brent is the only instructor using it. Brent is also looking for ways to distribute the tool to other universities and to businesses.
CNET, 7 April 2005 via Edupage
NSF TO FUND COMPUTER SECURITY RESEARCH CENTER
The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded a $19 million grant to create a technology center to study cybersecurity. The project, called the Team for Research in Ubiquitous Secure Technology (TRUST), will be led by the University of California, Berkeley, and will receive the funds over five years. Other higher education institutions participating in the project include Carnegie Mellon University, Cornell University, Mills College, San Jose State University, Smith College, Stanford University, and Vanderbilt University. S. Shankar Sastry, professor of computer sciences at Berkeley and director of TRUST, said, “The cybersecurity community has long feared that it would take an electronic Pearl Harbor for people to realize the scale of disruptions possible from a concerted attack by terrorists.” The TRUST project will conduct research into computer security in a variety of industries, specifically addressing the integration of technologies among “critical infrastructures.”
New York Times, 12 April 2005 (registration req’d) via Edupage
SCIgen: An Automatic CS Paper Generator
“SCIgen is a program that generates random Computer Science [CS] research papers, including graphs, figures, and citations. It uses a hand-written context-free grammar to form all elements of the papers. Our aim here is to maximize amusement, rather than coherence.” Includes a generated paper that was accepted at an international conference. From graduate students at MIT. (From Librarian’s Index to the Internet)
All items from the Scout Report are copyright Susan Calcari, 1994-2005. Permission is granted to make and distribute verbatim copies of the Scout Report provided the copyright notice and this paragraph is preserved on all copies. The InterNIC provides information about the Internet to the US research and education community under a cooperative agreement with the National Science Foundation: NCR-9218742. The Government has certain rights in this material.
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Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this newsletter are those of the participants (authors), and do not necessarily represent the official views, opinions, or policy of the National Science Foundation.