Sci-Tech Library Newsletter


Newsletter archive > 2000 January 6 Issue

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This newsletter is available to the public at the following locations:

  1. PUBSCIENCE DATABASE: Now brings you meteorological titles.
  2. CHANGES IN THE GENAMICS DATABASE: Removal of impacts.
  3. THE CRISP DATABASE: Federally funded biomedical research.
  4. TIP OF THE MONTH: When and how to use meta search engines for web surfing. They are not always the right tool, but, used properly, you sometimes just can’t beat them!
  6. INTERESTING WEBSITES, ETC.: Science presentations, Best of the Century, Electronic Special Characters, Environmental Predictions, Fun Science, Hot Research, Educational Goals, Scientific Literacy; Biological Sciences: Virus Database, Wildlife Tracker; Geosciences: Top Weather of the Century, Ocean Currents and Climate Change, undersea research; Mathematical and Physical Sciences: Molecules and Art, Snow Crystals, lots of mathematics sites, physics postcards, physics of roller coasters; Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences: economics, Neanderthals … and more!
  7. INTER ALIA: 1. The many rewards of a PhD (Don’t miss this one, folks. I haven’t laughed so hard in this century!) 2. Top government documents of the century.

    “Earlier in the Fall, we provided you with information concerning the launching of the DOE PubSCIENCE Web site which provides the capability to search hundreds of scientific and technical journals at one time and link to the publisher sites for full text, either free or through publishers’ provisions.

    The American Meteorological Society (AMS) has joined the PubSCIENCE partnership of DOE, GPO (which provides the access), and the more than twenty publishers participating in providing this unique capability. The press release at the end of this message tells about the addition of AMS to the partnership.

    PubSCIENCE was developed and is maintained by the DOE Office of Scientific and Technical Information (OSTI), a part of the DOE Office of Science. For more information, please contact Dr. Walter L. Warnick, OSTI Director (301) 903-7996.

    PRESS RELEASE of December 15, 1999

    American Meteorological Society Joins the PubSCIENCE Partnership

    The Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Scientific and Technical Information (OSTI) announces significant additions to PubSCIENCE ( This Web-based application provides the one-stop means to search and access hundreds of peer-reviewed journals at one time without searching through multiple Web sites, publications, and references.

    OSTI has partnered with more than twenty publishers to provide this unique capability to search with a single query, free of charge, for information on the physical sciences and other energy-related disciplines. The American Meteorological Society (AMS) is the latest publisher to join this partnership.

    Since PubSCIENCE was launched on October 1, 1999, it has become one of DOE’s most popular Web sites and has been added as a hyperlink on the Web pages of over 300 organizations.

    The AMS journals added to PubSCIENCE are:

    • Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences
    • Journal of Applied Meteorology
    • Journal of Physical Oceanography
    • Monthly Weather Review
    • Monthly Journal of Atmospheric and Oceanic Technology
    • Weather and Forecasting Quarterly
    • Journal of Climate
    • Monthly Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society
    • Earth Interactions

    This newsletter recently announced a new database called Genamics, which has a wealth of information on sci-tech journals. However, the impact factors have been removed from the website. You will still find searchable listings for over 8500 journal titles, categorized by subject, and containing a brief description and links. A very useful source! The Genamics folks are investigating sources to make the journal impact factors again freely available on their website, so stay tuned …

    (Thanks to Dana L. Roth)

  3. CRISP: Computer Retrieval of Information on Scientific Projects — Database of Federally Funded Current Research

    CRISP is a pair of large searchable databases of federally funded biomedical research projects conducted at universities, hospitals, and other institutions. Visitors to the CRISP site can gather information on a wide variety of projects, research grants, cooperative agreements, and other projects funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other government agencies. The site hosts two databases, one containing current awards and the other historical awards. Both can be searched by keyword with a number of modifiers. Returns include grant number, PI name and title, project title, an abstract, institution, and dates. An overview and FAQ are provided. CRISP is updated weekly. [MD] (From the Scout Report)


    Meta search engines are like one-stop shopping. You put in your search, and the meta-search engine runs it simultaneously on a dozen or so other search engines, tabulates the results, eliminates the duplicates and pops out your results. It may even tell you which search engines found which webpages in your results. Meta search engines are great!

    Do I use them 100% of the time I am searching the WWW? No. I don’t even use them very often actually. Why? Because, since each of the search engines used by a meta search engine (Alta Vista, HotBot, Inktomi, Google, whatever) is slightly different than its competitors, each one, to be used elegantly, must be manipulated slightly differently. A meta search engine can not reformat your search statement to take advantage of the nuances of each of its “slave” search engines. You simply cannot do an elegant search on a meta search engine. They don’t even let you try. If you look at the search screens they offer, they are pretty plain vanilla. To be anything else would be to mislead you. Personally, I am more comfortable with more control over my search than a meta grants to me.

    But, when the right search question comes along, there is nothing like a meta on which to run it.

    What is the right search question?

    One type of search question is a unique phrase. For example, I was recently trying to locate a full text electronic copy of a certain GAO report. The logical place to go was the GAO webpage, but I found that only very recent reports are available there. The GAO webpage linked to the GPO webpage for older reports. But I discovered that, for whatever reason, this particular report was not available on the GPO website, either. Things began to look bleak. At this point, the best thing to do was to run the search on a meta search engine. The title of the report was a very unique phrase — just the sort of search that metas handle well. The search brought up about a dozen results, all of which mentioned this report, most of which had links to its original URL at GAO (which was no longer a valid web address) but, after checking a few of the links provided by my search results, I found one with a link to a webpage at DOE which had a lovely pdf copy of the report. Just what my patron wanted, and needed by COB!

    Another type of search just made for meta search engines is one that uses one or more unusual terms. For example, I was once looking for webpages about a specific Arabian stallion. Because of registry rules, no two registered Arabians can have the exact same name with the exact same spelling, so the names tend to have very unique spellings. Running this name on a meta search engine immediately gave me a very thorough search of the entire web — much faster and more complete than I could have done by running the search on each of the several search engines I normally use. Again, the success of the search was pre-ordained by the fact that I was searching for something unique, and that required a very simple search structure (in this case, a single word). There are a fair number of sci-tech searches that fit this criterion!

    Another interesting aspect of doing searches on a meta search engine is being able to compare the results of your search across the various search engines used by the meta — and do remember that various meta search engines use different “slave” search engines, for those metas that give you this information. It is interesting to see the extent of overlap, and instructive to see how often there is NO overlap, between the websites found by the various search engines. But remember that just because any given search engine did not do well with your search request when used as part of a meta doesn’t mean it would not do well if you had used that search engine directly. It may be that the search statement would need to be tweaked to take advantage of the elegant features of a particular search engine.

    This brings up another situation in which metas can be very useful. Metas are not good at handling complicated searches. But you can still run a sort of broad search statement through a meta that you know will give you “dirty” results, in order to see which of the “slave” search engines give you at least some results. Then you can go to those individual search engines and structure a nice clean search to get really relevant results. It beats spending lots of time using a search engine which is just the wrong tool for the particular search you need to do.

    When would you not want to use a meta search engine? For any search that requires an elaborate search strategy in order to get clean results. Metas just don’t lend themselves to anything but straightforward search strategies. Most of the time I am more likely to go to one of my favorite general search engines than to a meta. I can do a nice, clean search, and I don’t have to wade through thousands of results (assuming I did my search well in the first place). But for some searches, you just can’t beat a meta!

    Some of my favorite meta search engines are:

    There are lots more out there. You can find many of them linked to:

    SearchEngineWatch — Metacrawlers


    NetSurfer Science
    “Netsurfer Science is a FREE e-mail delivered e-zine bringing neat science and technology sites directly to your mailbox. Subscribe and every week we will bring you a hot-linked HTML gateway to a selection of great online sites.”

    This e-zine brings you a terrific collection of sci-tech sites, covering everything from computing and engineering to archaeology and paleontology. A true gem!

    Cyberpulse is a quarterly e-newsletter about Internet searching and training. Written by Rita Vine, a librarian and Internet trainer, Cyberpulse is a free e-mail based newsletter intended for librarians, information professionals, Internet trainers, and information searchers who are looking for highly selective, top quality resources and advice.

    Cyberpulse is sent out free of charge to subscribers approximately 4 times a year.

    Journal of Medical Genetics
    Since its launch in 1964, Journal of Medical Genetics has provided readers with reports of original research in medical genetics. Published monthly, the journal covers a range of topics from basic research on medically relevant aspects of the human genome to clinical reports, diagnostic methods and psychosocial aspects of clinical genetics. Areas of special interest include:

    • Molecular genetics and its clinical application
    • Development of medical genetics services
    • Dysmorphology: the delineation and genetic basis of new syndromes
    • Ethical and social aspects of medical genetics

    The site is free and available to all on the Internet until 1 March 2000.

    Nanotechnology (Featured Articles)
    Three articles from each issue of the Institute of Physics Nanotechnology journal are freely available to all visitors. The selections from the journal are made based on the Editor’s choice, or due to their topicality. As a result, the titles are subject to change. Currently, featured articles include “Molecular shuttles: directed motion of microtubules along nanoscale kinesin tracks,” by John R Dennis, Jonathon Howard, and Viola Vogel, “Surface spectroscopy of nano- and subnanostructures,” R. Bruch, N. Afanasyeva, P. Kano, and D. Schneider, and “Molecular dynamics simulations of carbon nanotube-based gears,” Jie Han, Al Globus, Richard Jaffe, and Glenn Deardorff. The articles are located at the bottom of the page. [KR] (From the Scout Report)


    Talking Science: How to Prepare for Presentations by Christopher G. Edwards
    This article in HMS Beagle (free registration required) has some useful quick tips for public speaking. Although the article itself is short, the links at the bottom of the page give useful additional tips.

    Best of What’s New
    This website from Popular Science brings you their selections for the best of the inventions/discoveries in 1999 in several fields. Of particular interest is their Sci-Tech category, which mentions items as diverse as the huge cache of previously undisturbed mummies, to the calculation of the age of the universe. Other categories also include some fascinating items, such as SETI At Home, and the Microvision virtual retina display. (Thanks to Chad Tolman)

    Tildas, Umlauts, and Accents
    If you are wondering how to use your word processing or HTML code to create diacritical marks where they belong in text, visit this website for a simple chart for Windows, Macs, and HTML.

    Environmental Leaders Make Predictions for the 21st Century
    (Requires audio plug-in)
    At an EMS Press Breakfast, five of the nation’s leading environmentalists discussed what they consider to be the most important issues facing the world in the next century. If you have audio software plugged in, you can listen to the participants’ comments.

    Fun Science Gallery
    This site, in English and Italian, is put up by Giorgio Carboni, and contains detailed directions for a number of interesting educational activities that can be done with a minimum of expensive equipment. This does not necessarily mean that they are simple, however — not the kind of thing your 2nd grader could do without a lot of adult help. Activities included are building a microscope or telescope, observing blood cells, the lexical analysis of texts, exploring physical principles with folk toys, and more … Something for everyone at this small site!

    Uncle Sam — Migrating Government Publications
    This page offers direct links to printed federal publications that are migrating to the Internet. The value here is threefold: the links are to the documents (not the opening page of the issuing agency), publications can be found directly by Superintendent of Documents classification number, or, more usefully, alphabetically by publication title. This valuable service is provided by the librarians of the Government Publications Department of the University of Memphis Library, the same people who maintain a similar page of links to electronic forms, Forms from the Feds. — rms (From Librarian’s Index to the Internet)

    Institute for Science Information: What’s Hot in Research
    The Institute of Science Information, a publisher of Web-based information resources, offers this What’s Hot in Research Page which keeps abreast of current trends in scientific research. The weekly feature contains rankings of journals based on their impact within a field, listings of the most prolific universities in different fields, and an abstract of a hot paper in a subject area. Each paper’s impact is based on the number of times it was cited in the recent past. [KR] (From the Scout Report)

    National Education Goals Report (Dept of Education)
    This annual report ranks national progress on 17 education goals and states on 34 subjects, ranging from childhood immunizations to test scores to teacher education. State data may be accessed by subject (all states), comparison of three states on all subjects, or all of the data for one state. 8th Grade Math and Science is one of the monitored categories.

    Scientific Literacy Resources — AAAS Project 2061
    Science for All Americans OnLine
    Launched in 1985 and dedicated to the educational changes we must make before Halley’s Comet next returns to our skies, Project 2061 is a long-term effort to reform “science, mathematics, and technology education for the 21st century.” The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) developed several panels of Project 2061 scientists, mathematicians, and technologists to redefine scientific literacy. Their integrated report, entitled “Science for All Americans,” is available here. The Project 2061 homepage describes the ambitious scientific literacy project in full detail and includes links to a series of excellent online tools (click on Project 2061 Tools). The impressive report seeks to outline “what all high school graduates should know and be able to do in science, math, and technology and lays out principles for effective learning and teaching.” For any educator committed to the improvement of scientific literacy, this is an essential resource. [LXP] (From the Scout Report) Science Department Mathematics Department
    The Science and Mathematics Department pages from the Kentucky Migrant Technology Project’s Online Courses represent a new Internet-based learning prototype which combines carefully planned online lessons with select educational Internet resources. The Science Department page includes pre-high school science courses as well as high school level Introduction to Chemistry and Physics, Biology, Chemistry, and Earth/ Space Science courses. The Mathematics Department page contains courses for sixth- and seventh-grade Math, as well as high school Algebra I and II and Geometry. Lessons can be accessed without obligations, but to gain the full benefits of the program, students should register to take the tests. Eventually, this pilot program hopes that its online courses will be accepted by school systems around the country, and in this way, students may one day gain credit for satisfactorily completing a course. Through a developers’s area, educators can apply to design courses of their own. [KR] (From the Scout Report)

    Biological Sciences

    Universal Virus Database
    The goal of the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses database (ICTVdB) is “to describe all viruses of animals (vertebrates, invertebrates, protozoa), plants (higher plants and algae), bacteria, fungi, and archaea from the family level down to strains and isolates.” Information on the history and source of each virus, its taxonomy and properties, and an image are provided. The database is searchable by keyword and browsable alphabetically. Links to other virus databases. Developed and maintained at Australian National University. — ec (From Librarian’s Index to the Internet)

    Wildlife Tracker
    Wildlife Tracker is an animal and environmental search engine and directory. Other contents are pet names index by gender, pet rescue techniques, animal, insect, and nature cams, facts and figures about U.S. cities, animals, and the environment, free downloads section for adults and children, news, and much more. (From Blue Web’n)

    This site also contains a terrific links list to animal sound sources on the Internet.


    Top Weather of the Century
    Everyone is making century and millenial “top” lists, and here is another one from NOAA listing the top weather, water and climate events of the past 100 years. NOAA scientists chose the most notable tornadoes, floods, hurricanes, climate events and other weather phenomena, taking into consideration an even’ts magnitude, meteorological uniqueness, economic impact and death toll. Weather events from all over the globe are chosen, complete with background information and historic photographs.

    Ocean Circulation and Climate Change

    1. Climate Rides on Ocean Conveyor Belt — ENN
    2. Giant Ocean Eddies Discovered off Australia — ENN
    3. Warm Ocean Rings Intensify Hurricanes — ENN
    4. Arctic Thawing May Jolt Sea’s Climate BeltNYT
    5. World Ocean Circulation Experiment (WOCE)
    6. WOCE Publications
    7. Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
    8. North Atlantic Oscillation
    While the mainstream media has provided extensive coverage of El Nino and La Nina — the warmer and colder phases of a perpetual oscillation in the surface temperature of the tropical Pacific Ocean — little attention has been paid to deep-water phases. Several recent publications in leading scientific journals (Science and Nature) are adding new dimensions to the link between large-scale ocean circulation patterns and climate. Researchers Dr. Wallace Broecker and researchers at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (see the November 5, 1999 issue of Science and the November 9, 1999 issue of The New York Times) found that deep ocean currents, operating as an oceanic “conveyor belt,” may hold clues to climate change. The conveyor belt works by transporting warm, increasingly salty, ocean water from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean; eventually, the warm water current runs into a cold water current, causing the warm water to cool quickly and sink, due to greater density. In turn, this creates a “sub-surface countercurrent which carries the cool water back to the Indian and Pacific oceans” (2). In this week’s issue of Nature (December 2, 1999), German scientist Carsten Ruhlemann and colleagues provide new evidence that the thermohaline circulation has triggered rapid climate change events in the past, including the last deglaciation. In addition, the current issue of Science Times (December 7, 1999) highlights the connection between thawing Arctic ice sheets and oceanic currents. This week’s In The News focuses on ocean circulation patterns and climate change. The seven resources above provide background information and specific links to related resources.

    The first three sites, from Environmental News Network (ENN), describe how deep ocean currents circulate on a global scale, and over several decades, to create an oceanic conveyor belt (1). This global-scale oceanic conveyor belt may generate giant ocean eddies (2) and is believed to influence Atlantic Ocean hurricanes, the frequency of La Nina years, and the frequency of “wetter, cooler conditions in the Pacific Northwest” (3). This New York Times article (4) (requires free registration) describes the link between the oceanic conveyor belt and melting Arctic ice. For technical information on the ocean’s role in decadal climate change, see the homepage for the World Ocean Circulation Experiment (WOCE) — a multinational research effort (5). Also from WOCE is this list of scientific and other publications (6), including recent scientific papers and a substantial bibliography. Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO) homepage (7) provides a wealth of information for nonscientists and scientists alike. For links to ocean circulation and climate information, browse the LDEO’s Research and Data Repositories sections. Finally, for those seeking scientific information on climate oscillations, LDEO’s North Atlantic Oscillation homepage (8) is a solid place to start. [LXP] (From the Scout Report)

    Aquarius was home to the world’s first underwater web site broadcasting live in 1996 using a microwave link to shore-based servers. Aquarius itself is an underwater laboratory and home to scientists for missions up to ten days long, At the moment it is located in a sand patch near deep coral reefs in the Florida Keys 63 feet below sea level. Check out the webcams to see what’s going on in the deep blue briney, right now. (From New Scientist Planet Science) NOTE: When I checked the site, the webcams were down, but the site is still a very interesting browse!

    Mathematical and Physical Sciences

    Molecules and Art

    A recent article in Chemweb (Is It Art? by Katriona Knapman [Free registration required]) lists a variety websites of molecular art including the two following: Enjoy!

    1994 Molecular Graphics Art Show
    The world of molecules is an invisible world, far too small to be seen by the naked eye. Computer graphics, illustration, and artistic interpretation provide a windo into this tiny, invisible world, allowing us to see and understand the complex processes at work.

    A collection of unique photographs showing the beauty and importance of molecules

    Snow Crystals
    Information about the physics of snow crystals and snowflakes as well as the history of early scientific observations and photographs, how to take photos, various classification schemes, preserving snow crystals, ice crystal halos, and unusual forms of the snowflakes. There are also images of ice crystals grown in the lab. Related links are provided. — dl (From Librarian’s Index to the Internet)

    NOVA: Mathematics
    This NOVA, Science in the News site from the Australian Academy of Science (described in the March 3, 1999 Scout Report for Science & Engineering) has recently added a mathematics section. This section contains articles on the mathematics of calendars, stock markets, tabulating votes, calculating tsunamis, and much more. All in all, the site offers light, math-related articles for the general reader. [KR] (From the Scout Report)

    Eric Weisstein’s World of Mathematics
    This very interesting site, which bills itself as “The Web’s Most Extensive Mathematics Resource”, seems to be a very nice mathematics dictionary, arranged in subject order, complete with links to related terms and references. It is also searchable.

    Figure This: Math Challenges for Families
    This website, funded by the NSF, presents fun and interesting math word problems that parents and children could solve together. Hints toward the solution are given in a logical order, the answers are available, and related challenges are also presented, so that the solution of one problem can lead to another intriguing problem.

    Physics Postcards from FermiLab
    Send an electronic postcard of a pair of top quarks, or a high-energy photon. Even if you are a physics idiot, like me, the graphics are stunning and fascinating!

    Mr. Pitonyak’s Pyramid Puzzle
    This site features an interdisciplinary Web-based project designed for middle school math students to determine how much it would cost to build an Egyptian pyramid today. (From Blue Web’n)

    Thrills and Chills Without the Spills — Rollercoaster Physics for Middle School
    At this site create your dream roller coaster ride and test it in a virtual amusement park. Explore physics and math through a roller coaster design competition by building a working scale model. Compete on-line with other middle-school students. Also included is a scavenger hunt covering many different facts about roller coasters. The project will run from December 20 — April 17, 2000. (From Blue Web’n)

    Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences

    Economic Literacy Project (FRB-Minneapolis)
    This site presents an interactive test on general economic principles. Also included are survey results from students and the general public and articles on increasing American economic literacy.

    Bill Trochim’s Center for Social Research Methods
    The brainchild of a Cornell University social scientist, this site provides a wealth of materials for learning the fundamentals of social research. Undergraduates (and probably many beginning graduate students) will find invaluable Trochim’s Knowledge Base, an online hypertext textbook on applied social research methods that gives step-by-step instruction on “defining a research question, sampling, measurement, research design and data analysis.” The site also features “an online statistical advisor” that recommends appropriate statistical tests based on research parameters that users enter; a Research Pointers page that gives links to Internet data and research method sites; and a collection of student Webpages devoted to presenting Internet resources on selected sociological topics (caveat: some of these are better than others and none are more recent than the Spring of 1997). In addition, Trochim offers, for both students and researchers, a collection of online papers written by Trochim and colleagues, focusing primarily on the idea and application of “concept mapping,” a research method designed to help communities address and coordinate complicated tasks and projects. [DC] (From the Scout Report)

    Neandertals: A Cyber Perspective [Java]
    Maintained by Kharlena Ramanan, a PhD candidate in physical anthropology at Indiana State University, this site provides a bounty of misconception-busting information on Neandertals. Did you know, for instance, that Neandertals were not, as they are commonly represented, stooped over, chimpanzee-shuffling, low-grade primates? Or that scholars currently are engaged in a healthy debate as to whether or not they spoke as well as Homo sapiens? Separate sections address these issues as well as the topics of Neandertal tools, diet, lifeways, art, skeletal morphology, fossilized remains, and the ultimate fate of the race. The site also offers a listing of references, further reading, and related Websites. Note: there are frames and lots of applets on the site that might give some smaller computers trouble. [DC] (From the Scout Report)

    [For more information, see The Truth About Neandertals]

    Also Worth Noting:

    1. Links to Technical Reports on the WWW
    2. I have updated my “Ask a Scientist” sites. If anyone would like a list of the URLs I have collected, contact me at I am still collecting sites …


    The following items are from Edupage. To subscribe to Edupage: send mail to: with the message: subscribe edupage Anonymous (if your name is Anonymous; otherwise, substitute your own name). To unsubscribe send a message to: with the message: unsubscribe edupage. (If you have subscription problems, send mail to:

    The National Transparent Optical Network Consortium (NTONC) is helping to develop the U.S. government’s Next Generation Internet (NGI). NTONC is now working on the West Coast part of the network, which eventually will be used to test high-speed broadband applications. Already, NTONC has connected Portland, Ore., and Seattle. Nortel Networks is managing the project, and vendors, carriers, corporations, universities, and research groups have all contributed as well. The backbone of the network is a 10 Gbps OC-192 Sonet system that extends from Seattle to San Diego, says Nortel’s program manager for NTONC Paul Daspit. However, only about half of the backbone is complete, and NTONC plans to add Layer 3 switching, ATM, packet-over-Sonet switching, and routing to the network’s five main nodal points, Daspit says. NTONC’s network allows organizations to study next-generation issues involving protocols and devices, Daspit says. Currently, researchers are using the network to try out high-speed applications such as remote medical diagnosis and real-time distance editing of motion pictures.
    (Telephony 12/13/99)

    The U.S. Department of Education has created the Gateway to Educational Materials (GEM) Web site to provide teachers with lesson plans at no charge. GEM was created by the National Library of Education and the ERIC Clearinghouse at Syracuse University. The lesson plans were culled from online sites for federal and state governments, nonprofit and commercial entities, and universities. More than 7,000 items are available at the site. School teacher Mary Beth Blegen says, “GEM offers a quicker way to get at materials that are very specific lesson plans that are already done. At least there’s a guide to work with, and that’s better than [sorting through] pages and pages on the Web.” GEM has been online since 1998, but the Education Department didn’t want to promote the site until enough resources were online to make it useful for teachers.
    (Wired News 12/16/99)

    Although skepticism remains as to whether readers will embrace digital books, interest in the electronic format is growing, with young people leading the trend. The University of Texas at Austin plans to spend $1 million to increase its current collection of 6,000 electronic books. Students are checking out the university’s digital books at astonishing rates, says librarian Dennis Dillon. “Usually a book has a one-third chance of being checked out,” Dillon says. “So to have some title checked out 25 times in two months — that’s shocking.” Companies such as Microsoft are preparing for a wave of digital reading, predicting that electronic books will overtake print books within 10 years. Meanwhile, traditional publishers such as Random House are skeptical about the new format but are still moving to digitize all of their titles. Startups such as netLibrary, which sells electronic books to libraries, are working to draw readers by offering a large selection of titles. However, in order to get publishers to sell titles, these companies need to prove that sufficient demand exists for the digital format.
    (New York Times 12/09/99)

    IBM today will announce its intention to invest $100 million over the next five years to build Blue Gene, a supercomputer that will be 500 times faster than current supercomputing technology. Researchers plan to use the supercomputer, which will be able to perform 1,000 trillion calculations per second, to simulate the natural biological process by which amino acids fold themselves into proteins. Blue Gene, which will stand six feet tall, occupy 1,600 square feet of floor space, and include about 1 million microprocessors, will need roughly a year to perform the protein-folding simulation. The human body manages the task in less than a second. Blue Gene will require IBM to devise new standards of computer architecture to enable super high-speed calculations and highly advanced software to run at the high speeds without causing bottlenecks.
    (New York Times 12/06/99)

    Starting today, visitors to AOL and other news-oriented sites will be able to query the White House about any subject. The “Ask the White House” feature, part of a new Government Guide site, will display the five most-requested weekly questions posted by Web sites visitors, as tabulated by the Web sites. The feature has far-reaching ramifications for the relationship between citizens and government, says AOL Chairman Steve Case. The new feature represents “a special cyberpass to the most exclusive press conference in the world,” says AOL’s director of government programming, Kathleen Delaski.
    (USA Today 12/06/99)

    Gerald A. Heeger, president of the University of Maryland University College, advises colleges and universities to adopt business-like practices when approaching their online education initiatives. “I would hope that people are cognizant of the advantages in being an efficient and effective organization,” he says. Heeger argues that the vast and ever-changing Internet landscape requires schools to be open-minded in their approach to the market, which includes being open to adopting a business-like attitude to education, something many school administrators have been loath to do. Universities will take different approaches to ensuring their survival in the online education market, Heeger says. An example of Heeger’s willingness to meld business practice with education is NYUonline, which he helped create. NYUonline is a private subsidiary of New York University.
    (Chronicle of Higher Education Online 12/01/99)

    Researchers at the University of California San Diego’s Supercomputer Center were abuzz this week as the center’s new, $20 million IBM RS/6000 SP supercomputer arrived, loaded in four semi trucks. “It’s a big step forward because of the power and the importance and size of problems we can address,” said Supercomputer Center director Sid Karin. The computer consists of 44 six-foot, 2,500-pound frames, each containing 32 CPUs, and can perform 1 trillion calculations per second. Massive supercomputers such as the IBM RS/6000 SP have become popular at university and other research facilities in recent years because they allow scientists to explore phenomena that would be too complex to study without such computing power. The National Science Foundation paid for UCSD’s new machine, which will be used to create models that simulate the Earth’s climate and the evolution of galaxies.
    (San Diego Union-Tribune 11/28/99)

    Students in a University of Wisconsin computer science class this fall interacted with students at two Japanese universities by sending video and audio streams over Internet2 lines. “We could communicate as if we were in the same room,” says Dr. Lawrence Landweber, who taught the University of Wisconsin class. Although experts have long viewed this type of distance interaction as the next major step for online learning, technological barriers such as bandwidth requirements have limited such communication. In the past, synchronous distance-learning courses have run through cable or satellite television, which cannot easily be configured to allow geographically separated people to speak to one another. The Internet2 lines allowed audio and video to travel between Japan and Wisconsin at 40 Mbps, without the jerky movements and muffled sounds that would have occurred with the regular Internet. The course used the new IPv6 standard, which is designed to speed transmission of video and audio to different locations simultaneously.
    (New York Times 12/30/99)

    The Internet program at Limestone College will graduate 70 students this May, and most never set foot on the college’s South Carolina campus. The college began offering classes online in 1996, and the classes became a program of study last year. In 1999, over 1,700 people took Limestone classes online, using passwords to get to the classes and e-mail to send in assignments. One adult student said the virtual campus allowed him to take classes while keeping his full-time job and growing family. Another said he is able to work on a degree in computer science at his own pace. Others appreciated the structure of the lessons, involving reading a chapter, answering questions, then going on to a case study.
    (Associated Press 12/27/99)

    The University of Texas at Austin is considering joining the increasing number of schools that require graduate students to submit a digital copy of their dissertations. This spring the school will begin refining its digital-dissertation policy, and might start requiring electronic submission as early as May 2001. Digital formats allow students to include multimedia such as video and audio, and can be made more widely available than paper formats. The first university to require digital copies of theses and dissertations was Virginia Tech in January of 1997. Virginia Tech allows students to limit access to their work because of concerns that online distribution could lead print publishers to turn down the materials. The digital trend is now spreading around the globe, says Edward Fox, a Virginia Tech computer science professor who directs the Networked Digital Library of Theses and Dissertations, which has over 70 members. One drawback of digital distribution is that technical difficulties can limit preservation and access. Virginia Tech ensures that all materials are submitted online and on disk rather than tape, so they can be transferred into new formats as technology evolves.
    (Chronicle of Higher Education Online 4 Jan 2000)

    Online courses will most likely become the standard method of corporate training in the next few years, according to a recent InformationWeek survey. The study, which surveyed 300 IT executives, found that 55 percent of respondents rate distance learning as a top business priority for the year 2000. Distance learning has become popular because it reduces the travel costs and scheduling difficulties associated with traditional classroom-based training. A variety of companies in different industries are now launching distance learning initiatives aimed at both employees and customers. IBM Learning Services, a division of IBM Global Services, was scheduled at the end of 1999 to offer satellite-based training to business partners, employees, and eventually higher education institutions. Also implementing online training are Charles Schwab, which is establishing a learning center for its Internet brokerage unit, and Lockheed Martin, which is implementing KnowledgeNet Live, an interactive training product based on the traditional classroom model.
    (InformationWeek 3 Jan 2000)

    LATINO-ORIENTED PORTAL TO OFFER FREE INTERNET ACCESS is doing its part to bridge the digital divide by offering free Internet access to its user base, which consists mostly of U.S. Latino professionals and students. “Our goal is to help drive and improve the rate at which Hispanics go online,” said Edwardo Martinez, one of the founders of the bilingual portal., an advertising-supported free ISP, agreed to provide the Internet service for Hispanics are buying computers faster than any other group.
    (Los Angeles Times 5 Jan 2000)

    The New York Times education column went to some of the sources it quoted in 1999 and asked them, “What were the most important or interesting developments in the world of education and technology in 1999?” Consortium for School Networking Executive Director Keith R. Krueger said the biggest event of the year was 50 percent of U.S. classrooms getting access to the Internet. This raises questions about the best uses of technology in education, how to make sure teachers are able to use the technology, and how to pay for it all. University of Texas in Austin 21st Century Project director Gary Chapman pointed to the emergence of such organizations as the Alliance for Childhood, which balances the debate on schools’ computer use by asking questions about the necessity and content of computer use. Concord University School of Law dean Jack R. Goetz pointed to the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools’ decision to accredit the online Jones International University; Goetz’ law school is also solely online. Meanwhile, American Association of University Professors Committee on Accreditation Chairman James E. Perley pointed to his association’s request that the accreditation lauded by Goetz be reconsidered. Lehigh University President Gregory C. Farrington mentioned the increased offering of online higher education from traditional institutions and the threat that it poses to for-profit education outfits.
    (New York Times Online 29 Dec 1999)


    The rewards of a PhD are many and diverse. Take a look at the wonderful picture gallery displaying what a PhD can provide to you, too!

    (I would definitely like to keep this website from my kid currently in college … Although, teenagers being what they are, I am not sure if it would be a disincentive or an incentive …)

    Government Documents of the Century
    Several libraries are running contests to name the best (U.S.) government documents of the 20th century. If you would like to see the nominees, or nominate one yourself, you can go to either of these sites:

    There are some very interesting selections here. It is truly a window on the many and varied tasks and problems taken on by our government during the past couple of generations.