Sci-Tech Library Newsletter


Newsletter archive > 2001 February 23 Issue

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  1. GOOGLE UNIVERSITY SEARCH: A new feature from this search engine …
  2. SEARCH ENGINES MORPH: Some interesting new tools for web surfing …
  3. SEARCH ENGINES AWARDS: What’s the best engine this year?
  4. INTERESTING WEBSITES AND NEWS FROM THE INTERNET: Science snacks, conservation, dinosaurs; Biological Sciences: big genome news, classification, environmental library, hidden forest, British marine life; Computer and Information Science: calculating machines; Engineering: earthquake engineering, patent model museum, hydroelectric plants; Geosciences: winter storms, crystallography; Polar Programs: arctic submarine, Arctic Bluebooks; Mathematical and Physical Sciences: Cassini, spiral periodic table, online geomtery, tessellations; Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences: Congress, tax policy, women in the industrial age, archeological exhibits, … also: computer science and internet news from Edupage.
  5. INTER ALIA: A song for Pluto.

    Google’s University Search
    One of the maddening things about college and university websites is that they just aren’t standardized. Every one is designed differently. This is no doubt as it should be, but it does make things hard to find. Instead of knowing exactly where to go, you have to surf around each website.

    However, help is on the way, and it is called Google. You may be familiar with the Google search engine already. It is in some ways a very limited search engine, and in some ways it is wonderful. One its unique features is “Google’s University Search”.

    Pick a university from its list, and Google will present you with its standard search screen, but it will search only the chosen university’s website! No longer, if you need Prof. Smith’s webpage at Podunk University, do you need to find out Podunk’s URL, figure out his department, and go sailing around the departmental website to see if Prof. Smith happens to have a personal webpage — at least in theory. Now you can just go to Google, click on Podunk, type “Smith” into the search box, and go to it! Any Podunk webpage with “Smith” on it appears in your search results.

    Of course, because of the way Google structures its search results, the personal webpages do not necessarily float to the top of the “hit” list. But at least you have limited places to look. When I tried a few test searches, I found that the promise of this search was greater than the reality, but perhaps Google can tweak it a bit through time … I remain hopeful.

    The list of Universities available is getting longer all the time, as Google enters into agreements with the individual institutions.

  2. ATTENTION WEBSURFERS! New Websearching tools abound!

    1. Google is now indexing PDF files. It isn’t perfected yet, but this is a part of the web that is normally difficult to search. Remember you can also use
    2. AltaVista has instituted a new search feature to only look at .gov webpages. AltaVista has also redesigned its entire website to make itself more user friendly. This is a great search engine, and worth a look if you haven’t visited it lately.
    3. AltaVista has also instituted a new search feature to only look at .edu webpages. Unlike the Google feature listed above, it does not restrict to a particular university website, but AltaVista certainly allows more elaborate search structures than does Google, so this should be a very useful feature.
    4. ProFusion — Version 2 Beta (
      ProFusion is a meta-search and “deep Web” search engine that will look at parts of the web hidden to standard search engines.

    2000 Search Engine Watch Awards
    Wondering which search engines you should try? Look at the Search Engine Award winners …

    “… I’m pleased to announce the winners of the 2000 Search Engine Watch awards. Google won as both Outstanding Search Service and Most Webmaster Friendly Search Engine. Ixquick and Dogpile won for Best Meta Search Engine, while news search service Moreover won for Best Specialty Search. Two services were also inducted into the Hall Of Fame: Yahoo and FindLaw. More details can be found via the awards page below, and thanks to all of you who participated! I'm looking forward to expanding the awards next year, based on your many comments and suggestions.” (From Search Engine Report)


    Exploratorium Science Snacks
    “These pages are full of Snacks … but they’re not the kind you eat. They’re the kind you can learn from and have fun with. Exploratorium Science Snacks are miniature versions of some of the most popular exhibits at the Exploratorium.”

    The Evolution of the Conservation Movement: 1850-1920
    This site documents “… the historical formation and cultural foundations of the movement to conserve and protect America’s natural heritage, through books, pamphlets, government documents, manuscripts, prints, photographs, and motion picture footage drawn from the collections of the Library of Congress.” (The films are available in QuickTime, MPEG, and RealPlayer formats.) The contents of the site are arranged by subject and author and are searchable. There is also a chronology of selected events. From the American Memory Project of the Library of Congress. — lmr (From Librarian’s Index to the Internet)

    Dino Directory
    The Natural History Museum of London’s new dinosaur site has several features that set it apart from other dino pages. For instance, users can search by “body shape” by clicking on one of six cartoon silhouettes. The site is also searchable by time period or country. Twenty-six countries are featured, including China and Mongolia. Each country’s page features a comprehensive list of the best-known dinosaur genera with links to information about the dinosaur’s name (including pronunciation!), localities, size, diet, and taxonomy. An abundance of color illustrations and photographs are available for each dinosaur. Another neat feature of the site is the section about other ancient reptiles besides dinosaurs. [HCS] (From the Scout Report)

    Biological Sciences

    The Human Genome Unveiled: Publication of Sequence and InitialScientific Analyses

    1. “Summary of the Initial Sequencing and Analysis of the Human Genome”
    2. “Junk DNA may not be such junk, genome studies find” — ENN
    3. “Genes that count”
    4. “A History of the Human Genome Project”
    5. The Human Genome — Science [.pdf]
    6. Celera Genomics
    7. Human Genome — Nature [.pdf]
    8. US National Human Genome Research Institute

    This week’s In The News highlights the landmark publication of the complete human genome sequence and its scientific interpretation. Spearheaded by two separate approaches and funding sources, the outcome of some ten years of hard work — and moments of intense competition — is the release of two complete sequences: one led by Craig Venter of Celera Genomics (a private venture with limited access to data, previously discussed in the April 7, 2000 _Scout Report_) and the other by a consortium of publicly funded laboratories (led by Francis Collins of the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI)). The two sequences provide an excellent opportunity for comparison and convergence, opportunities that would not have been possible through a single approach. Also published this week are the first scientific analyses of the genome. These initial analyses uncover new details on the organization of the human genome and how it evolved — including the surprising fact that humans have a smaller number of genes than previously thought, indications that some human genes may have come directly from bacteria, and variability in mutation rates among males and females. With these advances, researchers have begun to unlock the secrets of our genetic heritage and to better understand our relationship to other living creatures. Although more work lies ahead to refine and, in some places, re-sequence the human genome, this first draft, and its initial interpretation, represents a landmark achievement in science.

    The first three resources offer news briefs on the much-anticipated publication of the human genome sequence and accompanying analyses. First, this brief from the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) comments on the recent publication of the complete draft of the human genome, representing the combined efforts of thousands of scientists from many different institutions (1). Second, this Environmental News Network brief describes the scientific significance of recent findings (2). A third news brief from _New Scientist_ highlights the recent advance with emphasis on the initial analyses of the genome (3); note that full commentary on the newly-published human genome data will also be published in the February 17, 2001 issue of _New Scientist_ magazine. For a history of the Human Genome Project, see this historical summary page from _Science_ magazine (4). In addition to these brief resources, the heart of information on the complete human genome sequence and numerous initial scientific analyses are provided via two main resources: _Science_ magazine’s Special Issue (5), featuring the sequence spearheaded by Celera Genomics (6), and a complementary special issue of _Nature_ magazine (7), featuring the sequence led by the International Human Genome Sequencing Consortium and the US National Human Genome Research Institute (8). The free online issues of _Science_ and _Nature_ contain the genome sequences — with .pdf maps of each chromosome -- as well as a suite of peer-reviewed scientific research papers and ethical and historical commentary -- to provide context for this historic breakthrough. [LXP] (From the Scout Report)

    Classification of Living Things
    With a focus on human classification categories, this is a tutorial on the principles of taxonomy using the Linnaean system of classification. With chapters, quizzes, and a glossary, it guides the student in understanding the hierarchical biological classifications that reflect evolutionary changes and relationships between organisms. Some words link to MP3 files for pronunciation. — chs (From Librarian’s Index to the Internet)

    New Jersey Environmental Digital Library (NJDEL) [.pdf, RealPlayer]
    Developed by the Scholarly Communication Center of Rutgers University Libraries, this site offers access to an impressive array of materials related to the New Jersey environment. The scope of the collection is quite broad, including citizen information, technical reports, photographic tours, and even some full-length videos. In addition, many of the items in the digital library are ephemeral or grey literature, typically unavailable through common research tools. Visitors may search the collection by keyword or phrase, title, or author, or browse via one of three pull-down menus: theme, place (county), and document type. As if all this were not enough, the library will also digitize documents on demand, and environmental organizations and individual researchers can submit their materials directly to the collection (select “submit records” for instructions). An excellent resource and a model for other states.[MD] (From the Scout Report)

    The Hidden Forest
    Lichen and slime from the southern hemisphere seem an unlikely subject for such a lush and lovely gallery of photographs. There’s plenty to learn here about the structure, classification, life cycles, and habitat of the small green plants and colorful fungi that carpet New Zealand’s forest floor. Take a walk in the woods with amateur photographer and all-around fun guy Clive Shirley, and discover the beauty of bryophytes, those non-vascular mosses and miscellaneous worts that neither flower nor reproduce by seed. Seen any fruiting liverworts lately? Take a closer look at what’s underfoot. (From Yahoo’s Picks of the Week)

    The Marine Life Information Network for Britain and Ireland (MarLIN) maintains this web site as a comprehensive resource for data on the marine environment in and around Britain and Ireland. The site is geared to both researchers and amateurs, who are asked to report sightings of monitored species. MarLIN was founded by the Marine Biological Association and the Nature Conservation Committee in 1998, with a mission to provide a “comprehensive and easily used source of information.” To this end, the web site provides direct access to databases of species and biotope information for the Britain/Ireland area, with good search capabilities, as well as four reports by the organization. In addition, MarLIN appears to be in the process of developing an educational resources section. RKM (From New Scientist Planet Science)

    HON Media
    A database of over 1,950 medical images and videos, pertaining to 1,350 topics and themes in medicine and life sciences. Images are gleaned from webpages and cover a wide variety of themes and image types.

    Human Genetics: A Worldwide Search for the Dominant Trait
    Register now so that your class can participate. The dates of the project run from March 5 to May 25, 2001. Students will complete surveys of observed physical characteristics, formulate hypotheses, and use the data compiled by students around the globe to test their hypotheses. Your students will never look at earlobes without thinking of this project! (From Blue Web’n)

    Computer and Information Science

    Calculating Machines
    Features history and photographs of mechanical calculating machines. Includes advertisements, with descriptions, from 1937–1954. Discusses adding machines, calculators, and the earlier devices — the abacus and slide rule. Provides access to sites of related organizations, and periodicals. — cl (From Librarian’s Index to the Internet)


    Introduction to Earthquake Engineering
    In 1997, William G. Godden, Emeritus Professor of Civil Engineering, donated his nine-volume slide set, Structural Engineering Slide Library, to the Earthquake Engineering Research Center Library at the University of California at Berkeley. This site is based on the original text for Set J: Earthquake Engineering, by V. V. Bertero, an illustrated introduction to earthquake engineering principles. The web version was designed and created by Vivian Isaradharm, a student at UC Berkeley. This material, usually seen only at conferences, is now made available for general use, and will be particularly useful as an aid to the teaching of structural dynamics and earthquake engineering.

    The Rothschild Petersen Patent Model Museum
    Home to over 4,000 patent models, this museum preserves the work of inventions large and small. Take a look at the rotary engine designed in 1876 or the machine for making toy torpedoes designed in 1875. While the making of toy torpedoes isn’t as integral to everyday life as the rotary engine, part of the joy of this site is viewing the fantastic and whimsical models that didn’t quite make it to the assembly line. Use it as inspiration for your own invention. (From Yahoo’s Picks of the Week)

    Computational Fluid Dynamics
    A very nicely arranged directory to websites on this subject.

    This simple, well illustrated website from the the Foundation for Water and Energy Education presents you with virtual tours through a hydroelectric plant. You can:

    • Walk Through a Hydroelectric Project
    • Take the Fish Passage Tour
    • See How Hydropower Works
    • Tour a Generator

    Other resources include a glossary of terms, a hydroelectric timeline, and more …


    “IPCC WGI Third Assessment Report” [.pdf]
    The Third Assessment Report of Working Group I of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has released this draft summary for policymakers (approved in Shanghai in January 2001), describing the current state of scientific understanding of the climate system. The report, available in .pdf format, provides considerable scientific evidence that warming is occurring across the globe and that “emissions of greenhouse gases and aerosols due to human activities continue to alter the atmosphere in ways that are expected to affect the climate.” [LXP] (From the Scout Report)

    Scholastic Winter Storms
    Students hear all sorts of stories about winter storms. This is your chance to tie those stories into the science of storms, and look at severe storms over the past three hundred years. My two favorite areas are the Interactive Weather Maker and the Winter Storms Timeline. A Teacher’s Guide is included in this section. (From Blue Web’n)

    Two Sites on Crystallography

    Introduction to Crystallography and Mineral Crystal Systems
    “A very useful and instructive website that graphically illustrates the geometry-based system for classifying minerals by their crystalline shapes. Beginning with the text-based Introduction, the beginner gradually learns about the geometry of crystals and the system of the six large groups (or crystal ‘systems’) that all crystal forms may be placed in. This website successfully deals with a VERY complex subject that usually intimidates first-year university students. I can’t recommend it too highly!” (From Websurfer’s Biweekly Earth Science Review)

    Interactive Crystallographic Polyhedra
    “A gallery of entertainingly interactive ‘wire-frame’ GIF images of the different crystal forms. This purely geometric subpage is part of Doctor Steffan Weber’s Home Page. Dr. Weber is a very talented software developer whose passion for crystallography has prompted him to create Java-based applications from which he has generated several hundred amazing images of crystalline and molecular models of some very exotic minerals and other substances. Even if you are not well-versed on the intracies of crystalline geometry, you will gain an appreciation for the startling variety of crystal forms found in nature and the laboratory. A WORD OF WARNING TO NETSCAPE USERS: If you plan to explore any other subpages of this website, I would recommend that you use a VERY current version Internet Explorer, instead: it is more stable when used to browse this site; some of the Java applets used to generate the images may cause Netscape to crash.” (From Websurfer’s Biweekly Earth Science Review)

    Polar Programs

    Ice Run: A Submarine to the Arctic
    “The last mission of the Hawkbill. On its final mission, the nuclear submarine USS Hawkbill journeyed underneath the polar ice cap. The mission, a joint expedition of the U.S. Navy and the National Science Foundation, navigated the treacherous waters and ice canals above the Arctic Circle. Along with the scientists and submariners, a two-person CNN crew came aboard the Hawkbill to film a documentary on the unusual environment of a cramped submarine.”

    Index to the Arctic Blue Books: British Parliamentary Papers on Exploration in the Canadian North 1818-1878
    The Blue Books cover subjects from anthropology to zoology — the social, natural, and medical sciences of the nineteenth century — which are still very important to us today as baseline data in everything from Canadian Arctic/Subarctic Ecology, Geography, History, Native Peoples, etc. Dr. Andrew Taylor has provided us with the key to this valuable resource. He produced a very comprehensive and the only index to the Blue Books.

    Mathematical and Physical Sciences

    CICLOPS Cassini Imaging Central Laboratory for Operations
    Have you ever wanted to take a close look at mighty Jupiter? Now,images of Jupiter from NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft are available fromthe Cassini Imaging Central Laboratory for Operations (CICLOPS). Mostrecently, Cassini captured images of Jupiter’s brightest outerfacesatellite, Himalia. Other dazzling images include Jupiter’s red spot,its polar haze, and .gif animations of storms on Jupiter (very largefiles). A diary of Cassini activities and a description and schematics of the imaging system are also featured. [HCS] (From the Scout Report)

    Your Sky
    An interactive planetarium. By entering a city, or the latitude and longitude, maps can be produced for “any time and date, viewpoint, and observing location.” Maps can also be customized including viewpoint, magnitude, and other display options. Skies may also be viewed from the horizon. An “ephemeris for the sun, moon, planets, and any tracked asteroid or comet” is included for each map. Orbital elements of asteroids or comets can also be plotted. — dl (From Librarian’s Index to the Internet)

    The Periodic Spiral
    “… A Periodic Table with a twist. Literally… This table is represented by a spiral arrangement of hexagons with hydrogen at the centre of it all. In a conventional Periodic Table, we all know that the elements of the same group are displayed in columns and the periods running across display elements with increasing atomic numbers from the electropositive left to the electronegative right. Elements in the same horizontal period have the same number of electron shells. In this spiral version, the groups radiate from the centre and the period follows a spiral course. The Spiral’s creator Jeffrey Moran believes that his layout fully integrates the lanthanides and actinides into the design, something that cannot be achieved using the Mendeleyev design.

    The author admits that his design is not without faults but he greatly believes that there will be a place for any undiscovered elements, even if they have an atomic number greater than 120! The Spiral is highly interactive, moving your cursor over each hexagon will reveal many facts about that particular element (discovery, derivation of name and uses amongst the main items). The transient existence of the radioactive elements or properties of the theoretical elements with atomic numbers 110–120 are explained. The information on each element seems to be scientifically accurate, however something that caught my eye revealed that Moran reads UFO literature (he mentions that element 115 is allegedly used in the core of the nuclear reactor that is the power/propulsion system of supposedly captured ‘saucers’!).

    If you ever need to know the composition of the earths’ crust, seawater or air, for instance, at a click of your mouse, the Spiral hides the elements that are not part of that particular composition leaving those involved visible, information regarding the exact proportions and in what form is also provided. In the same way, the elements found or used in electroplating, alloys, gems and precious stones are also obtained. The types of elements are also grouped together, for instance, you can view the s-, p-, d- and f-block elements, metalloids, transactinides, etc. The list is endless and the information abounds. The only real absence seems to be any information on the creator Moran, where is he based?, what is his background?, why can he not be contacted?

    The Periodic Spiral requires Shockwave, something you can download for free. The concept of this site is fascinating, the graphics are clear and crisp. This site deserves some attention. So download Shockwave now (if you do not have it already) and view this site.” (From Cheweb, reviewed by Dipti Shah)

    A Gallery of Interactive On-Line Geometry
    Maths is beautiful. If you doubt it, visit this wonderful mixture of maths and art — and maths as art. With many visual activities that dynamically create graphic solutions to your chosen parameters ­ a simple change in a text box and the site renders a tiled plane that Escher would be proud of; or draws a detailed graph mapping a series of defined relations; there’s even geodesic pinball. The screen is a surface, but some of the exquisite demonstrations on this site leap out and redefine the simple two dimensional world of a flat web world. You can dive straight in and play ­ try QuasiTiler ­ but going back and studying the supporting descriptions repays the mind and the eye. Approachable to mathematicians and the educated amateur, this site sucks you into the planes, shapes and curves of geometry with clear explanations and masses of background information. ARB (From New Scientist Planet Science)

    Totally Tessellated
    Tessellations are any repeating pattern of interlocking shapes. This site covers their history, most notably with its historical image gallery that contains over 100 of these intricate designs. To create your own tessellations, check out Essentials for background information and explanations of the various types, then choose printable designs from the list of templates. Finally, no site on this subject would be complete without a tribute to M. C. Escher — Master of Tessellations. Simply put, an incredible site from ThinkQuest. — mpk (From Librarian’s Index to the Internet)

    Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences

    This website put up by the Dirkson Congressional Center has links to useful information about the U.S. Congress, including lesson plans and teaching resources for K–12 classes. You will also find handy links like finding your Congressmen by your zip code, Congressional voting records, and more.

    Tax Policy and Administration — World Bank
    World Bank’s new Tax Policy and Administration Website is the seventh site in a series offering in-depth bibliographies of aspects of the public sector. Tax Policy and Administration is divided into five main topics. Each of the five topics provides a collection of readings, papers, and reports. The key reading in the first topic, Institutional Framework of Tax Policy, deals with a comparative analysis of the Korean, US, and Japanese electoral tax cycles. Designing Tax Structure looks at tax design, including theory, practice, and analytic methods. The third section, The Institutional Framework of Tax Administration, examines cultural, social, economic, and legal institutions and their effects on tax administration, such as corruption, incentives, and economic development and reform. Tax administration itself is covered in the fourth topic, and the final theme, Evaluating Tax Policy and Administration, offers a collection of readings providing analysis of tax administration framework. This site’s compilation is obviously carefully thought out and researched. While each reading is abstracted, only a handful of them are available in their entirety online. [EM] (From the Scout Report)

    Unheard Voices: American Women in the Emerging Industrial and Business Age
    The Harvard Business School presents Unheard Voices: American Women in the Emerging Industrial and Business Age. This manuscript collection, housed at the Harvard’s Baker Library, was extensively researched and surveyed in May 1999. Along with detailed descriptions of the collection, the site also offers a sample of digitized manuscripts. The collection is divided into four major categories: Women at Work, Women in Business, Women as Professionals, and Women’s Personal Lives. An extensive bibliography offers related Websites along with print materials. [EM] (From the Scout Report)

    Archaeology Exhibits
    A wide range of information about archaeology. General Archaeology contains a timeline of its development in the U.S.; an overview of the laws for the U.S., Minnesota, and the British Isles; dating techniques; the use of technology; and related links. Additionally, there is information about the various archaeological fields. Other sections are Artifacts; MinnArchBib, a bibliography of Minnesota archaeology; Prehistoric Technology; information about worldwide archaeological Sites arranged alphabetically by continent; Underwater and Virtual Archaeology; and a brief directory of museums. — dl (From Librarian’s Index to the Internet)


    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:

    Researchers studying immersive Web technologies at universities across the country are pioneering the future of the Internet. The hope is that within 10 to 15 years Web users will be able to see 3D images, hear full-channel sound, and even feel the texture of a fur-lined coat they plan to buy online. Jaron Lanier, chief physical scientist at Advanced Network & Services, says the real benefit will come from being able to interact with other people using the entire range of human senses. However, bandwidth and processor speeds remain barriers to refining the super-sensitive subtleties of human interaction. Researchers at the University of Southern California (USC) are exploring the use of haptics, a force-feedback technology that allows people to feel digital objects. Regardless of the advance of immersive Internet capabilities, some experts doubt whether this will be the end of the line using technology to replicate real life. Jaron Lanier says human senses are so refined that, although we may be wowed by new technologies, people will soon be able to quickly distinguish between the digital and corporeal. (Los Angeles Times, 5 February 2001 via Edupage)

    Celera Genomics Group will publish an analysis of the human genome, which it finished decoding last year, in the journal “Science” and will make the data supporting that analysis available on the company’s Web site. The arrangement between Celera and “Science” is significant as it marks the alliance of research science’s two competing wings: the academic and the corporate. The online data will be available to any academic researcher, but researchers must first agree not to share the data with other firms that have similar databases. Celera will let researchers use the data to support and patent their own projects. However, researchers from drug firms will not be allowed to use the data for commercial projects. Celera CEO J. Craig Venter explains that, while the company does want to adhere to the long tradition of data sharing among the research community, it must take steps to protect its data from piracy, which does not fall under any current U.S. copyright laws. Not all of Celera’s genome database will be available online. Researchers, with written approval from a university official, may order the complete database on DVD or CD optical disks. Although some researchers have criticized the agreement between Celera and “Science,” many say it is a reasonable precaution to protect data. (Wall Street Journal, 8 February 2001 via Edupage)

    The researchers who first developed Ethernet technology are now working to make the widely used LAN system global and up to 40 times faster. Nortel Networks CTO Bill Hawe, who worked on Ethernet design in the 1980s, says teams are now looking into fusing Ethernet and fiber-optic functionality. He says the speed of Ethernet could be multiplied by 10 and eventually even by 40 when used over optical networks. In effect, he says a company with computers across the country could run them as though they were on a LAN. Part of the technology that needs to be worked out are the enhanced micro-electro-mechanical devices (MEMs) inside intermediary switches. Advanced mirrors on these tiny chips could soon allow the MEMs to send optical signals without slowing them down by having to digitally translate them first. Other data bottlenecks are being cleared away as well, including placing content nearer the end-user. (Investor’s Business Daily, 13 February 2001 via Edupage)

    Unbeknownst to most of the 72,000 football fans that filled Raymond James Stadium on Super Bowl Sunday, each of their faces was scanned by the Tampa Bay police department using a high-tech surveillance system called FaceTrac. The system, created at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, compares photos of faces with a database of known “troublemakers,” from pickpockets to terrorists. The system cannot be fooled by disguises such as beards and sunglasses due to its extremely precise and complex measurements of the human face. The computers used during the game were attended by humans, and when the software made a match, a police officer was notified. Police made 19 matches during the Super Bowl, althoughthere were no arrests. The forces behind the surveillance insist that the surveillance at the game was simply a test, not a real effort to catch criminals. However, the surveillance has raised the ire of the American Civil Liberties Union and other privacy advocates, including some in Congress, who see this as the beginning of the end of privacy and civil liberties. (Time, 12 February 2001 via Edupage)

    Prisoners at the maximum-security Patuxent Institution in Maryland will soon be able to start work on earning college degrees online. Funded by a $1 million U.S. Office of Postsecondary Education grant, the new pilot program will help inmates prepare for life on the outside, say officials at the state’s Correctional Education Program. Eventually, 90 percent of prisoners will be released, claims D. Ray Harbert, one of the program’s organizers. He says being isolated from digital technology for several years poses a serious handicap for prisoners granted parole or released. The 24 new Gateway Pentium III computers will not let inmates access the Internet in “real time.“ Each day, online content and e-mails will be downloaded to the prison server before the Internet connection is terminated. Inmates will then work off the contained content and update it before logging out. At the end of the day, the prison server will upload completed coursework to one of six area campuses that offer online degrees. Security is the utmost concern of prison officials, who are aware of some lawmakers’ attempts to stymie Internet efforts in prisons. (Baltimore Sun, 12 February 2001 via Edupage)

    Computer security experts warn that university computer systems are ripe targets for hackers looking to launch distributed denial-of-service (DDOS) attacks. The DDOS attacks that last year crippled many well known Web sites, including Yahoo!, eBay, and, included data packets sent from Stanford, Oregon State, Washington, and many other universities. New Technologies forensic investigator Kurt Bryson says university computer systems are this vulnerable because schools rarely have the money to afford security software and other technology, while it is impractical for schools to monitor every student who uses university hardware and what software they might add to it. Security experts add that many problems begin with the research computers that many schools bought with federal grant money, since the money covers only hardware, not security. However, George Strawn of the National Science Foundation, which provides much of this grant money, warns that simply throwing up security firewalls around every university system may not be the best solution. (Computerworld, 12 February 2001 via Edupage)

    The Internet has become so popular at Brandeis University that the college has decided to create a liberal arts curriculum and degree in Internet Studies. The first of its kind at a U.S. college, the program combines classes in computer science, law, economics, and other disciplines to come up with new courses such as Virtual Opera, Visual Culture, and Law and Society in Cyberspace. U.S. colleges such as Harvard, Yale, and the University of Washington have research centers for the Internet, but Brandeis differs from all other universities because its program takes a liberal arts approach to the Internet. Although some professors are skeptical about what students will be taught, other academics acknowledge that the legal and commercial impact of the Internet, as well as other Internet-related issues, should be studied. Laura Gurak, a rhetoric professor and director of the Internet Studies Center at the University of Minnesota, says students will learn how technology changes lives. “A lot of us think that’s so important to study,” says Gurak. (Boston Globe, 9 February 2001 via Edupage)

    The state-wide Maine Library Association has filed suit against a new federal law mandating that public libraries block pornography Web sites from their Internet connections. The Children’s Internet Protection Act has also raised protests from the American Library Association, the ACLU, and the People for the American Way Foundation. The ACLU claims the law is a slippery-slope threat to First Amendment rights, and Maine librarian J. Gary Nicholas predicts that small libraries will relinquish federal funds for the Internet rather than their autonomy. State Rep. Brian M. Duprey (R-Hampden) says that the concern over Internet filters is frivolous. Duprey has introduced a bill in the state House that would force schools and libraries to install filters on any Internet-enabled PCs that are available to minors. (Associated Press, 8 February 2001 via Edupage)


    Always a planet to me…
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    Astronomically-oriented humor — regarding the suggestion to reclassify Pluto from a “planet” to a “Kuiper object”, since it’s supposedly too small and too like other small bodies for the uniqueness of planet status …

    (to the tune of Billy Joel’s “She’s Always A Woman to Me”)

    He can orbit the sun, he can look like a moon
    He can leave the ecliptic from April to June
    He’ll be just a faint smudge, magnitude twenty-three
    He hides in the sky, but he’s always a planet to me

    Ohhh … a potato-shaped ball …
    He can drift where he wants
    He’s a relic of time
    Ohhh … if he’s made of pure ice
    Or of vapor and dust
    It’s the same to my mind

    If he zooms in near us, would he show us a tail?
    Was the Kuiper Belt once the great home whence he sailed?
    And if he gets demoted, who’ll be next, Mercury?
    And the most he can do is cast shadows, it’s true
    But he’s always a planet to me;
    Chief Scientist, Brown Univ. Scholarly Technology Group

    Cat Herders
    OK, it has nothing to do with science, but for those of us who like cats, this commercial was a classic. See the commercial and read about how it was made. It is also available at, a site which has TV commercials from multitudinous sources. The study of advertising is an interesting view on the sociology of a time and place.