Sci-Tech Library Newsletter


Newsletter archive > 2004 December 22 Issue

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  1. BEST SCIENCE OF 2004: It’s that time of year — best websites, best news stories, best books, best gifts, and more …
  2. SEARCH ENGINE NEWS: New Search Engines from EEVL … “Google Scholar” debuts, plus full text classics to come … PubMed enhanced …
  6. INTERESTING WEBSITES AND NEWS FROM THE INTERNET: Biological Sciences: Stem Cells in the Spotlight, Sense of Smell, Sleep, Exploring our molecular selves, Four on Neuroscience from NPR, Watching for the Next Pandemic, Transplant Pioneers Recall Medical Milestone; Computer and Information Science: Handwriting Retrieval Demonstrations, Election Over, Concerns with E-Voting Linger; Engineering: World’s tallest roadway bridge opens in southern France, Houses of the Future, The Great Auto Race of 1908; Geosciences: 2004 Climate in Historical Perspective, Operation Montserrat; Mathematical and Physical Sciences: Printing Teaching Objects from A Digital Library, Diversity Builder’s Toolbox: Successful Models in the Chemical Sciences, MiniGRAIL: first spherical gravitational wave antenna in the world, Math in the Movies, Fermilabyrinth, Life of Marie Curie; Polar Programs: Melting Glaciers, Byrd Commemoration — A Special Report; Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences: New OECD Productivity Database, End of Men?, Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs, Digital Himalaya [pdf, QuickTime] … and more … plus news items from Edupage

    Top Physics News Stories for 2004
    “For us it was the detection of spin at the single-electron level using a cantilever device — a combination of MRI and AFM technologies — known as a magnetic resonance force microscope.” This is AIP’s choice for the most important news of the year. Visit this site for the other physics news stories that the AIP team selected as the best of the year.

    Quirkiest News of 2004
    Everything from flatulent fish to bloodthirsty bedbugs.

    Science Magazine’s Top Employers
    An annual survey of scientists employed in private industry and academia.

    Science & Technology Web Awards 2004
    From the editors of Scientific American.

    Reviews: Top Science Books of the Year
    From Discover Magazine.

    Listeners’ top picks from the SciFri Bookshelf
    From Science Friday.

    Top Ten Degrees
    Engineering and computer science are right up there.

    Breakthrough of the Year
    Science chooses water on Mars as the top story.

    Discover’s Guide to the Top 100 Science Stories of 2003
    Grouped by category.

    Top Sci-Tech Gifts
    My favorite is the wooly mammoth hair …

    Outstanding Science Trade Books for Children
    From the National Science Teachers Association.

  2. PubMed’s Automatic Term Mapping Enhanced
    PubMed has enhanced its “automatic term mapping”. What this means to you is transparent searching for indexed synonyms to your search terms.

    Wow, It’s Google Scholar
    Google Partners With Oxford, Harvard & Others to Digitize Libraries
    If you haven’t looked at Google Scholar yet, you've missed something that has stirred a lot of commentary. This is Google’s way of “giving back” to the scholarly community, by providing free indexing of “scholarly journals”. It is an interesting experiment, whether you think Google has done it well or needs improvement.

    1. Shirl Kennedy and Gary Price bring you this introduction to Google Scholar. On the Heels of Google Scholar, Google announced a new project for massive digitization of rare items from libraries around the world.
    2. “Balanced assessment of ‘a massive scanning project that will bring millions of volumes of printed books into the Google Print database’ by digitizing older out-of-copyright materials from the shelves of partnering libraries (University of Michigan, Harvard University, Stanford University, Oxford University, and the New York Public Library). Also includes links to other sources for full-text books online. Written by Gary Price for the newsletter Search Engine Watch.” (From Librarian’s Index to the Internet)

    Search the content of over 250 e-journals
    Four new search engines from EEVL search the content of freely available full text ejournals.

    1. The Computing one searches the content of 60 freely available full-text ejournals in computing.
    2. The Maths one searches the content of 28 freely available full-text ejournals in mathematics.
    3. The Engineering one searches the content of 160 freely available full-text ejournals in engineering.
    4. And the final one searches the content of all 250 freely available full text ejournals in engineering, mathematics and computing.

    Much useful information is published in freely available ejournals. Trade journals, house journals and even some peer-reviewed journals are included in EEVL’s Ejournal Search Engine. Short articles, news items, product announcements, job opportunities, market and sector analyses, scholarly articles, components, meetings … these are some of the things you can locate via these subject-based ejournal search engines.


    Policy Recommendations from New Approaches on Energy and the Environment
    “This collection of twenty-five ‘memos to the President’ from economists and policy analysts at Resources for the Future, a Washington DC think tank with a tradition for independent, objective research, offers constructive policy options on critical challenges related to energy, the environment, and natural resources.

    Each contributor was asked to address the question: ‘Based on your research and knowledge, what policy recommendation would you like to make to the next U.S. President?’

    Writing in advance of the 2004 election so as to keep their essay free of partisan interpretations, the authors took pains to make their ideas accessible to a busy president as well as a wide range of readers interested in a concise, authoritative overview of the nation’s energy and environmental policy choices.”

    The book is available for purchase, but the policies section has videos of the scientists presenting their recommendations available for free viewing.

    Congressional Action on R&D in the FY2005 Budget
    IEEE Discussion
    NPR Discussion
    OSTP FY05 Budget Breakout
    “On December 8, President Bush closed the fiscal year (FY) 2005 budget process by signing into law a $388 billion omnibus appropriations bill. Congress gave final approval to the bill on December 6. The AAAS summary of R&D in final FY 2005 appropriations is now available, as well as the full publication Congressional Action on R&D in the FY 2005 Budget.

    As noted previously (Nov. 30 update), AAAS estimates that the federal R&D portfolio in the FY 2005 budget will be a record-breaking $132.2 billion, a $6.0 billion or 4.8 percent increase. 80 percent of the increase goes to defense R&D programs, primarily for weapons development. The nondefense R&D investment rises by $1.2 billion or 2.1 percent to $57.1 billion, better than the 1 percent increase overall for domestic programs but far short of previous increases. Most R&D funding agencies see modest increases but the National Science Foundation (NSF), two years after Congress approved a plan to double the agency’s budget over five years, sees a cut in its R&D funding. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) budget increases just 2 percent. Although the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) budget increases by 4.5 percent to $16.1 billion, the bulk of the increase goes to returning the Space Shuttle to flight, leaving NASA R&D up just 2 percent.

    The total federal research investment (basic and applied) increases 2.5 percent to an estimated $57.0 billion because of large increases in the defense and homeland security research portfolios. Growth in other research portfolios slows down considerably or reverses compared to recent years. The federal development investment, however, continues recent trends with another dramatic boost of 6.5 percent to $70.5 billion, almost exclusively in defense.

    AAAS estimates that R&D earmarks total $2.1 billion in FY 2005, up 9 percent from last year. These congressionally designated, performer-specific projects are concentrated in a few key agencies and programs: USDA, NASA, DOD, and the Department of Energy (DOE) receive 85 percent of the total.

    The AAAS analysis of R&D in final FY 2005 appropriations includes a comprehensive assessment of R&D in the final FY 2005 budget, the FY 2005 budget in the context of historical trends, highlights of agency R&D portfolios, and impacts of the budget on science and engineering disciplines. The analysis is a digest of the new publication Congressional Action on R&D in the FY 2005 Budget, now available online. The AAAS R&D web site also has a page on the final status of FY 2005 appropriations, including a summary of recent events and the most recent AAAS analyses.” (From AAAS R&D Funding Update December 15)

    “Looking to 2005 and beyond, it is clear that Federal support for science and technology will be increasingly challenged by budget constraints. Also, there appears to be a trend toward greater politicization of S&T issues. This presents a challenge to those in the S&T community wishing to impress the administration with the importance of continued US investment in S&T. A December 1, 2004 panel organized by AAAS, Research!America, and the Washington Science Policy Alliance looked at the road ahead for U.S. S&T policy. For information on the discussion, see: For detailed information on funding levels for specific agencies and programs, please see the full EOW newsletter at:” (From IEEE Eye on Washington)

    TIMSS Garners Media Coverage Nationwide
    Science and math education was front and center last week as evidenced by the media coverage of the December 14 release of the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS). An article in The Associated Press (AP), which goes to newspapers nationwide, reports “The 2003 international results show some promise for the United States, including a shrinking achievement gap between black and white students, a federal priority. Yet several countries, particularly in Asia, continue to outperform the United States in science and technology, fields at the heart of research, innovation, and economic competitiveness.” NSTA Executive Director Gerald Wheeler is quoted in the AP story, saying “The lack of improvement at the elementary level does not surprise us. We've been hearing from many elementary teachers that they are not teaching science because of the increased emphasis on literacy. Science is essentially being squeezed out of the elementary classroom.” To read these and other reports on the TIMSS, go to:

    Resources per Student in ARL Libraries
    Trends of resources in US research libraries over the last two decades.

    Politics and Science in the US

    Science and Technology in the National Interest: Ensuring the Best Presidential and Federal Advisory
    Scientists Say Advisory Panels Politicized
    NAS Probes Politics, Science
    There is sharp debate in the scientific community about the degree of political independence that is appropriate for government science advisors. The National Academy of Science recently revisited this question and their report has stirred considerable commentary.

    Evolution Update from NSTA
    “Challenges to the teaching of evolution have gained national attention in the news media once again. Local school boards in Dover, Pennsylvania, and Grantsburg, Wisconsin have opened the door for nonscientific viewpoints in the science classroom by making statements regarding the study of ‘alternative theories’ of evolution. In Georgia, residents await a court decision about whether an antievolution disclaimer can continue to be placed in science textbooks.”

    See also: NPR “Talk of the Nation”

    Bio-Defense Research

    Experts Question Levels of Bio-Defense Spending
    NIAID Bio-Defense Research Website
    Battle over Biodefense
    Research on Biodefense Can Get Generous Funds, but With Strings Attached
    As the budget for R&D gets tighter, one of the few areas with increased funding is biodefense research. Not surprisingly, this fact stirs debate in the research world.


    Save the Dolphins Contest — Dec 31
    The National Academy of Engineering’s EngineerGirl! Web site announces a new essay contest, “Save the Dolphins,” for boys and girls in grades 5–12. Entries are due by Friday, Dec. 31.

    “Human Cloning and Human Rights: Promises and Perils”
    MIT Program on Human Rights and Justice
    Science, Technology and Human Rights series presents

    Rudolf Jaenisch,
    MIT Professor of Biology and Founding Member
    Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, and

    Stephen P. Marks,
    Professor of Health and Human Rights
    Harvard School of Public Health.

    Rudolf Jaenisch goes deeply into the biology of human cloning to get to the ethical issues that surround the debate. Stephen Marks follows by raising ethical issues through the prism of human rights on a global scale.

    Media and the Election: Is our Democracy Working?
    The MIT Communications Forum presents
    Media and the Election: Is our Democracy Working?
    “New Rules for Established Media”,
    A Panel Discussion moderated by Stephen W. Van Evera.


    • Amy Mitchell (Director, Project for Excellence in Journalism),
    • Alex Jones (Lecturer in the Press and Public Policy, Kennedy School of Government),
    • Mark Jurkowitz (Media Writer, The Boston Globe)

    “This panel discussion, taped 5 days before the 2004 Presidential election, provides insights into the fragmentation of audience and how little the ‘mainstream’ media actually affect voters’ decisions.”

    This is the second lecture in this series, presented by the MIT Communications Forum and the Technology and Culture Forum at MIT. See the series at

    Technology and the Future Warrior: Protecting Soldiers in the 21st Century
    The MIT Enterprise Forum presents
    “Technology and the Future Warrior: Protecting Soldiers in the 21st Century”.

    Speakers Steve Altes, Jean-Loius DeGay and Edwin (Ned) Thomas discuss technological innovations that will greatly enhance a soldier’s survivability under a range of combat situations.

    Guidelines for Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research
    Committee on Emerging Issues and Data on Environmental Contaminants (National Academy of Sciences.
    January 4, 2005 – January 5, 2005
    500 5th Street, N.W.,
    Washington, DC

    If you would like to attend the sessions of this meeting that are open to the public or need more information please contact:
    Contact Name: Jordan Crago,
    Phone: (202) 334-1790,
    Fax: (202) 334-2752,

    From Lab to Market: Where Technology is Headed-The Research Director’s Point of View
    “How do you conduct R&D in a vanguard technology? These three panelists provide varying perspectives on the question.”


    How well are American students learning? With studies of NAEP math items, middle school math teachers, and the revamped Blue Ribbon Schools awards. Brookings Inst., Brown Center, 2004.

    Highlights From the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) 2003. US Dept. Education, 2004.

    Impacts of a Warming Arctic: Arctic Climate Impact Assessment. ACIA, 2004.

    Marine Mammal Populations and Ocean Noise: Determining When Noise Causes Biologically Significant Effects. NAP, 2004.

    Offshoring: A Challenge or Opportunity for British IT Professionals? British Computer Society, 2004.

    National Archives Standard for Record Repositories. National Archives (UK), 2004.

    Challenges for the European Information Society beyond 2005. EEC, 2004.

    Getting Up to Speed: The Future of Supercomputing. NAP, 2004.

    Contaminants in the Subsurface: Source Zone Assessment and Remediation. NAP, 2004.

    The Digital Divide in 2025. BT, 2004.

    Environmental Indicators: Better Coordination Is Needed to Develop Environmental Indicator Sets That Inform Decisions. GAO-05-52, 2004.

    Quality Through Collaboration: The Future of Rural Health Care. NAP, 2004.

    Resuscitating the Bioweapons Ban: US Industry Experts Plan for Treaty Monitoring. Center for Strategic and International Studies, 2004.

    Frameworks for Higher Education in Homeland Security. NAP, 2004.

    Environmental Health Indicators: Bridging the Chasm of Public Health and the Environment — Workshop Summary. NAP, 2004.

    On the Archeology of Health Care Policy: Periods and Paradigms, 1975–2000. NAP, 2004.

    Setting Priorities for Space Research: Opportunities and Imperatives. NAP, 2004.

    Setting Priorities for Space Research: An Experiment in Methodology. NAP, 2004.

    Emergency and Continuous Exposure Guidance Levels for Selected Submarine Contaminants. NAP, 2004.

    Assessment of Options for Extending the Life of the Hubble Space Telescope: Final Report. NAP, 2004.

    The Role of Experimentation in Building Future Naval Forces. NAP, 2004.

    Redesigning the U.S. Naturalization Tests: Interim Report. NAP, 2004.

    Reducing Future Flood Losses: The Role of Human Actions — Summary of a Workshop, March 2, 2004, Washington, DC (2004). NAP, 2004.

    Facilitating Interdisciplinary Research. NAP, 2004.

    From Source Water to Drinking Water: Workshop Summary. NAP, 2004.

    Getting Up to Speed: The Future of Supercomputing. NAP, 2004.

    Measuring Research and Development Expenditures in the U.S. Economy. NAP, 2004.

    Review of the U.S. CLIVAR Project Office. NAP, 2004.

    Science and Technology in Armenia: Toward a Knowledge-Based Economy. NAP, 2004.

    Science and Technology in the National Interest: Ensuring the Best Presidential and Federal Advisory Committee Science and Technology Appointments. NAP, 2004.


    Biological Sciences

    Sense of Smell
    Most people could stand to know a bit more about the sense of smell, and this website is a good place to start. The basic mission of the Sense of Smell Institute is “to be a leading global resource relating to the sense of smell and its importance to human psychology, behavior and quality of life”. Visitors to the site can start by visiting the “Smell 101” section of the site, where they can begin to learn about the sense of smell and the benefits of fragrance. The “Smell Resources” area is particularly well-developed and contains a virtual library of scientific articles which relate to human olfaction and a selection of recommended books on the subject, divided into thematic areas such as sensuality and perfumery. For the uninitiated, there is also a helpful glossary of olfaction available here. Finally, visitors can also learn about the events and exhibits that constitute the annual National Sense of Smell Day. [KMG] (From the Scout Report)

    Report Links Lack of Sleep and Obesity
    This BBC Website has some fun activities and tests you can take on this website. Profile your own sleep pattern and circadian rhythm, test the effects of caffeine, and more …

    The NPR website discusses two studies linking lack of sleep with hunger and cravings.

    Stem Cells in the Spotlight
    “Stem cells are the body’s main building blocks — and a key topic of political and ethical debate. Here you’ll find a plain-English explanation of how stem cells work in the body, their current and future medical applications and the challenges facing stem cell research.” This is a simple but detailed website about stem cells, complete with animations for children. Covers many aspects of information and recommendations for additional information.

    Exploring our molecular selves
    “Take an in-depth look at how scientists unraveled the mystery of our genetic code! Built to coincide with the 2001 completion of the first phase of the Human Genome Project, this web site covers the timeline of our interest in genes and genetic change, starting with Darwin and heading into the future applications of genomic research. There are also 3D animations that illustrate the basics of molecular biology. A section on the ethical, legal, and social implications provides background info, vignettes, and discussion questions addressing these important concerns.” (From ENC)

    Transplant Pioneers Recall Medical Milestone
    “On Dec. 23, 1954, doctors in Boston gave a kidney to a seriously ill, 23-year-old man in the first successful long-term transplant of a human organ. Since then, transplants have saved more than 400,000 lives. But as NPR’s Joseph Shapiro reports, that’s something transplant pioneer Dr. Joseph Murray never imagined.”

    Watching for the Next Pandemic
    Asian bird flu is causing major worries for public health experts around the world. This series of stories from NPR trace the timeline and discuss various aspects of the flu.

    Four on Neuroscience from NPR

    Birdsong Studied for Clues to Brain Function
    NPR’s Alex Chadwick talks with Cathryn Jakobson Ramin about progressive memory loss among adults
    Brain Scans Make for More Accurate Lie Detector Tests
    Study Probes Roots of Human Empathy

    1. Like people, birds have to learn their vocalizations. A study being published in Nature reveals how white-crowned sparrows learn to string notes together.
    2. NPR’s Alex Chadwick talks with Cathryn Jakobson Ramin about progressive memory loss among adults in their 50s and 60s.
    3. NPR’s Ira Flatow, host of Talk of the Nation Science Friday, joins NPR’s Noah Adams to discuss how brain scans could provide a more accurate lie detector test. Researchers announced this week that brain scans of people telling the truth look very different from those who are lying.
    4. A body language experiment at Harvard reflects a shift in thinking among neuroscientists about how humans, primates and other mammals respond to emotion in others, from fear to joy.

    Computer and Information Science

    Election Over, Concerns with E-Voting Linger

    C-Net Story
    UC Berkeley Working Paper Summary
    Walker Statement (GAO)
    AAAS Committee on Electornic Voting
    ACM Statement

    1. The November 2004 general election has come and gone, but not without stirring concerns over e-voting systems. While the consenus seems to be that most e-voting machines performed adequately in the election, several precincts suffered breakdowns of their e-voting machines, others had problems with getting the machines to boot up, and still others reportedly had problems with machines displaying the wrong selections after voters had made their choices. Other problems included an error in Ohio that resulted in nearly 4000 phantom votes in preliminary results and a situation in North Carolina where over 4000 votes were lost in a mix-up involving memory capacity. For more details regarding some of these issues, see the CNET article.
    2. Also see which is tracking problems and coverage of electronic voting following the election.
    3. Meanwhile, a team of University of California, Berkeley, researchers is pointing toward other irregularities associated with electronic voting. Among other things, the researchers suggest that electronic voting machines may have awarded 130,000 excess votes or more to President Bush in Florida.
    4. More recently, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) clarified its position on studying voting irregularities from the 2004 election, stating that GAO is “not authorized to engage in enforcement efforts relating to specific allegations of voting irregularities.” Lately there have been calls — most notably from several members of Congress — for the GAO to undertake an investigation of the 2004 election. However, in the statement Comptroller General David Walker points out that GAO plans to continue its “ongoing and planned work relating to systemic election issues, involving reviews of voter registration processes, provisional voting, and voting technologies.”
    5. Also looking into e-voting at the moment is the National Academies Computer Science and Telecommunications Board, which has formed a Committee on Electronic Voting provides information about the committee and its work, as well as links to several white papers submitted in response to a recent call for papers.
    6. Earlier this year, ACM issued a statement recommending that all e-voting systems embody careful engineering, strong safeguards, and rigorous testing in both their design and operation, and, further, that all such systems enable voters to inspect a physical record of their vote to verify that it has been accurately cast. (From ACM Washington Update)

    Handwriting Retrieval Demonstrations
    “This page contain a brief introduction to the handwritten historical document retrieval systems that have been developed at the Center for Intelligent Information Retrieval. These systems retrieve actual handwritten pages (not transcriptions) given text queries. To the best of our knowledge, these are the first off-line handwriting retrieval systems. All of the demonstration systems described here have been built on a subset of the George Washington collection at the Library of Congress.”


    The Great Auto Race of 1908
    Imagine driving in an auto race from New York to Paris in 1908, when horses were considered more reliable than cars. The Great Auto Race began in the bitter cold of winter and traveled westward to Alaska, across the Pacific Ocean to Siberia, then on to Paris; traversing areas where roads were rare. Competing teams from around the globe included France, Germany, Italy, and the United States. George Schuster Sr. from Buffalo, N.Y., won the race and still holds the world record. Follow the American Thomas Flyer on its winning journey across more than 22,000 miles and three continents in 169 days. Learn about the restoration of the Flyer in 1964, with the help of a 92-year-old George Schuster. Then sit back and enjoy the highlight of this site — its video collection. Stay tuned for the centennial celebration in 2008.

    World’s tallest roadway bridge opens in southern France

    NPR: Major Suspension Bridge Inaugurated in France
    Higher, longer, wider: the art of building bridges
    Viaduc de Millau
    Foster and Partners [Macromedia Flash Player]
    Bridge Basics: A Spotter’s Guide to Bridge Design
    Extreme Engineering
    During the past several decades, France has become the home of some rather iconic modernist structures, such as La Defense and the rather intriguing Pompidou Center. With one quite bold stroke, the rural landscape of southern France has just this week become home to one of the world’s truly impressive engineering (and architectural) feats as the Millau bridge opened this past Tuesday. Designed by British architect Norman Foster, the bridge rises 891 feet above the Tarn valley for one and a half miles as it passes through France’s Massif Central mountain range. In an interview with a French newspaper, Foster remarked that “A work of man must fuse with nature. The pillars had to look almost organic, like they had grown from the earth.” In recent years, Foster has gained acclaim for his other monumental structures, which include London’s Millennium Bridge and the Hearst Headquarters project in New York. Colorado’s Royal Gorge Bridge remains the world’s tallest suspension bridge, although it is designed for pedestrians. For those who may be considering a drive over the structure, prices will vary from 4.90 euros ($6.50) in winter and 6.50 euros ($8.62) in summer.

    The first link leads to a nice feature from National Public Radio that includes an interview by their own Robert Siegel with the mayor of the city of Millau, Jacques Godfin. The second link leads to a news piece from the online edition of Wednesday’s Independent newspaper that talks about the continued admiration for the art and science of bridge building. The third link provides a host of material on the bridge, its construction, and literally hundreds of different views of the structure. It should be noted that, while the entire site is in French, the site is still worth a visit due to the remarkable images and renderings. Moving on to the fourth link, visitors can peruse the website of the architectural firm of Foster and Partners. Here they can view a list of the group’s current and previously completed projects, and learn more about the partners’ work. The fifth site offers some “Bridge Basics” for novice bridge aficionados, and they will quickly learn how to tell a deck truss from a pony truss in no time at all. The sixth and final link leads to a site from the Discovery Channel that affords some insights into feats of “extreme” engineering, such as Boston’s Big Dig and the proposed Bering Strait Bridge. [KMG] (From the Scout Report)

    Houses of the Future
    “Using straw, sticks, and bricks, the Three Little Pigs fashioned environmentally sensitive homes, although only one proved to be huffin’-and-puffin’-proof. Nowadays, more and more consumers are demanding homes that are modern and high-quality, as well as eco-friendly. Addressing those concerns are the folks behind the Year of the Built Environment and their showcase of six houses of the future. Each home is a pre-fab capable of being erected in less than 4 days. The ‘open, free-form plan’ of the concrete house is intriguing, although mowing the roof may be problematic. Other domiciles are constructed of steel, timber, glass, or clay. The cardboard house can be assembled by two people in six hours. And if you get tired of its slanting walls, you can just toss it in the recycle bin.” (From Yahoo’s Picks of the Week)


    Operation Montserrat
    “The giant awakens and the skies darken as ash and soot rain down on a remote tropical island. The volcano-now a ticking time bomb-has come to life once again and the residents of Montserrat worry about their fate. As flaming pebbles and lava begin to devastate the countryside, emergency response teams learn a hurricane is approaching. Fortunately, the Space Shuttle is dispatched and makes repairs on a satellite to transmit real-time data about the hurricane and volcano.”

    Operation Montserrat is an electronic mission that challenges students to apply their science and math skills to an authentic crisis situation. During the two-hour e-Mission, student specialists serve as members of a team: volcano, hurricane, evacuation, or communication.

    2004 Climate in Historical Perspective
    “When 2004 ends, it will rank among the top 10 wettest years on record for the contiguous United States, and is expected to be warmer than average, according to scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Climatic Data Center.” This website is perhaps not visually arresting, but contains a wealth of information logically and accessibly arranged.

    Mathematical and Physical Sciences

    Printing Teaching Objects from A Digital Library
    Many of Cornell’s collection of 266 19th-century mechanical teaching models, designed by the German engineering professor Franz Reuleaux to teach the underlying mathematical principles by which machines work, are visible on the Internet to students and teachers. Through collaborative efforts of the Cornell University Library and Cornell engineering and mathematics faculty, visitors to Cornell’s Kinematic Models for Design Digital Library (KMODDL) can see photographs of the machines, watch movies of them in action and play with computer simulations of their movement. But wouldn’t it be better to have the actual machine in the classroom? That soon will be possible when Cornell puts a library of “stereolithographic” files online from which special printers can construct full-size, three-dimensional, fully working plastic models of the Reuleaux machines and similar machines in a collection at the Museum of Science in Boston. The 18-month project, funded by a $499,710 grant to Cornell Library from the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services, will make machines in the collections available to other universities and museums around the world. (From Whiteboard)

    Diversity Builder’s Toolbox : Successful Models in the Chemical Sciences
    “The chemical industry has sounded an alarm about the shortage of a diversified talent pool. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the employment rate of chemists is expected to grow at about 15 percent over the next decade. However, the supply side of this chemistry labor pool is a different story. The total number of chemistry and chemical engineering Ph.D.’s fell from 2,929 in 1994 to 2,483 in 2002. Additionally, with the baby boomer population approaching retirement age, the gap between the supply and demand for highly skilled chemists and chemical engineers will probably grow.” This website from the National Academy of Sciences, provides resources from academia and business to address this problem.

    MiniGRAIL: first spherical gravitational wave antenna in the world
    “Professor Giorgio Frossati of Leiden University’s Institute of Physics can ’listen' to gravitational waves. That is, if such a wave happens to come along. Gravitational waves originate from violent clashes between black holes in the universe and from instabilities in neutron stars. MiniGRAIL is the name of the first spherical gravitational wave antenna in the world. The ball was made at the Leiden Institute of Physics (LION) of Leiden University. It is the product of years of close cooperation between Frossati’s research group and the technicians of the fine-mechanic and electronic workshop in the Institute. ‘A result to be proud of,’ says Professor Peter Kes, LION’s scientific director. The MiniGRAIL detector is made of copper with a pinch of aluminium (6%), has a diameter of 65 cm and weighs 1150 kilos. If a gravitational wave passes by the antenna, it will transmit a very small part of its energy to the ball. Gravity waves with a frequency of circa 3000 hertz will make the ball vibrate in all kinds of different ways. Yet, these vibrations are very small, a billionth of a billionth part of a centimetre (10-20 m), which makes them very difficult to measure. MiniGRAIL will have to attain a sensitivity good enough to detect these ultra-small vibrations. Astronomers predict that at the frequency and amplitude of such ultra-small vibrations various sources of gravitational waves can be measured, like clashes of black holes and instabilities in neutron stars.” (From

    Math in the Movies
    There are many learned (and not-so learned) professions that get a bad rap in the world of cinema. Scientists, and mathematicians in particular, tend to be portrayed alternately as either evil madmen or troubled geniuses. Through this website, Arnold Reinhold offers his informed and honest appraisals of mathematicians (and their math, of course) in various films. To get a sense of the project, visitors may want to begin by listening to an interview with Reinhold, provided by the Studio 360 radio program on National Public Radio. After listening to the delightful interview, visitors will want to browse through the reviews, which offer a star rating for the film overall, and of course the portrayal and accuracy of the math in the film. Some of the films profiled are A Beautiful Mind, Straw Dogs, Good Will Hunting, and of course Pi. Overall, a site that’s worth a few visits, and quite a bit of fun. (From the Scout Report)

    “Particle science is amazing, as you’ll see in this interactive maze of games, tools, and information about particle science from Fermilab. Students will gain a new perspective on the methods and machinery scientists use to explore quarks and leptons in their overarching quest to understand how the universe works.” (From ENC)

    Life of Marie Curie
    “In Sweden, the 2004 Nobel Laureates receive their medals at a gala ceremony. In a salute to Nobel science, this hour we’ll look at the life and work of a scientist who earned not one, but two Nobels — Marie Curie. She won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1903, and for Chemistry in 1911. We’ll talk with the author of a new biography about Curie.”

    Polar Programs

    Byrd Commemoration — A Special Report
    “On Nov. 29, 1929 a sound never heard there before echoed over the ice sheet that covers the Earth’s South Pole. The engines of a Ford tri-motor aircraft heralded the arrival of the first human beings to visit the Pole since Robert Falcon Scott in 1912. Scott had perished on the way back from the southernmost spot, having been bested in his goal a month earlier by Norwegian Roald Amundsen.”

    This NSF website has interesting text sprinkled with pictures, video clips, maps, definitions and more.

    Melting Glaciers
    “Speaking this week at the meeting of the American Geophysical Union, Lonnie Thompson discussed finding 5,000-year-old plants embedded in deep ice cores — a sign, he says, that the climate may have changed rapidly around that time.”

    Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences

    Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs
    A companion to an “exhibition of more than 130 treasures from the tomb of the celebrated pharaoh Tutankhamun (King Tut), other Valley of the Kings tombs and additional ancient sites,” which will tour the United States in 2005-2006. The site features a timeline, information about Thebes (modern day Luxor, called the Valley of the Kings), King Tut, the discovery of his tomb in 1922, and the alleged curse. Also includes a bibliography and selected images. (From Librarian’s Index to the Internet)

    New OECD Productivity Database
    The database provides estimates of labour productivity growth for 27 OECD countries and MFP growth for 18 OECD countries. Free on the web.

    Digital Himalaya [pdf, QuickTime]
    For those who feel that there may be a paucity of material on the Himalayan region, they will need to take a close look at this fine site provided through a collaboration between the Department of Social Anthropology at Cambridge University and the Anthropology Department at Cornell University. Since its inception in December 2000, the partners have managed to digitize a number of photographic collections, several journals, and a number of short films. Scholars with an interest in Himalayan studies will want to browse through the digitized volumes of such publications as Contributions to Nepalese Studies and the Journal of Bhutan Studies. One particularly intriguing collection made available here is the Frederick Williamson Collection. Williamson was a British political officer stationed in Sikkim, Bhutan, and Tibet during the 1930s. During his tenure there he and his wife took some 1,700 photographs documenting their experiences and also made a number of short films, which are also available for viewing on the site. Visitors to the site may also want to register with the project so that they are informed of project updates. [KMG] (From the Scout Report)

    End of Men?
    This three-part series from NPR looks at changes in our society and in biology and how they affect men.


    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:

    A scientific panel convened by the National Research Council has called on the federal government to substantially increase its funding of supercomputing initiatives or risk seeing the United States lose its position as a global leader in technology. The panel’s report warns of a widening gap between software and hardware development in high-performance computing. Panel member Steven Wallach of Chiaro Networks said, “We are calling for a sustained and long-term investment to help develop advanced software and algorithms.” The federal government currently provides about $42 million annually for such research; the panel recommends that amount be raised to $140 million. Susan L. Graham, a computer scientist at the University of California, Berkeley, and cochair of the panel, said, “If we don’t start doing something about this now, there will be nothing available in 10 years when we really need these systems.”
    New York Times, 9 November 2004 (registration req’d) via Edupage

    The U.S. House of Representatives has approved the Cooperative Research and Technology Enhancement (Create) Act of 2004, sending it to the president’s desk for signing into law. The bill, which was passed by the Senate in June, allows patents to be granted for products invented through the collaborative work of several institutions. In 1997, a federal court had ruled that sharing information key to a particular invention could render that invention “obvious” and ineligible for a patent. The Create Act had strong support from the Association of American Universities, which argued that the court’s ruling has been a drag on collaborative research projects among multiple institutions. Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.) agreed, saying to the House that the bill would “spur the development of new technologies.” The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, which also supported the measure, sought to have it apply to past collaborations, but to ensure sufficient support in the House, the bill was amended to include only future collaborations.
    Chronicle of Higher Education, 23 November 2004 (sub. req’d) via Edupage.

    The British government has rejected the findings of a government committee that recommended taking steps to encourage widespread adoption of open access publishing. The Science and Technology Committee of the House of Commons in July urged requiring free access to research funded with public money, in an effort to combat the rising costs of scientific journals. The committee also expressed support for the author-pays model of academic publishing. In its response, however, officials of the British government called the publishing industry “healthy and competitive” and said they are unaware of “major problems in accessing scientific information.” Publishers welcomed the government’s response, while supporters of open access publishing accused the government of bowing to pressure from the publishers, saying it “reached conclusions very different from those reached by the scientific community.” Because the research councils that distribute funds may opt to follow the committee’s recommendations despite the government’s position, supporters of the report remain optimistic that many of the councils will support the open access model.
    Chronicle of Higher Education, 10 November 2004 (sub. req’d)

    The Cyber Security Industry Alliance urged the Bush administration to increase efforts to protect U.S. computer and Internet infrastructure, proposing that the national cybersecurity director position be elevated to the assistant secretary level. The alliance is an industry advocacy group for companies that sell cybersecurity services, hardware, and software. The alliance’s proposals reflect those in a report issued by the House Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, part of the Committee on Homeland Security. The most recent congressional move to raise the profile of cybersecurity within the Department of Homeland Security failed when language in support of that change was stripped from legislation designed to overhaul the nation’s intelligence community.
    Washington Post, 8 December 2004 (registration req’d) via Edupage

    Google has announced agreements with major libraries to digitize books in their collections and make them available online. Google is funding the project, which is said to have strong support from founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, who said that such dissemination of information has always been one of their goals. Under the arrangements, Google reportedly will scan all of the eight million books at Stanford University’s library and all of the University of Michigan’s seven million texts. For the others involved in the project — Harvard University, Oxford University, and the New York Public Library — only portions of the collections will be scanned. For books whose copyright remains in effect, Google will scan the entire text but make available only selected portions online. Books whose copyright has run out will be available in their entirety. The announcement follows similar programs from the Library of Congress as well as Amazon to digitize content of books.
    New York Times, 14 December 2004 (registration req’d) via Edupage.

    The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is revamping its publication “Technology Review,” according to Jason Pontin, its new editor, to reflect more accurately the current landscape of technology. Gone are what Pontin, the former editor of “Red Herring,” refers to as “gee-whiz” coverage of technology. “We want,” he said, “to levelly and intelligently analyze today’s and tomorrow’s technology.” “Technology Review,” which was introduced in 1899, has followed technology developments through the 20th century and remained viable while other publications, such as “Red Herring” and “The Industry Standard” ceased publication. Under Pontin, “Technology Review” will expand from 10 issues a year to 12 and will broaden the scope of its coverage, including reviews of scientific articles and innovations. MIT continues to subsidize the magazine, and the changes to “Technology Review” are intended to increase readership and advertising revenue. According to R. Bruce Journey, the chief executive of Technology Review Inc., the nonprofit company owned by MIT that publishes the magazine, the organization is working to reach the break-even point.
    New York Times, 13 December 2004 (registration req’d)(via Edupage)

    The U.S. Department of Education is exploring ways to keep tabs on school-age children of migrant workers in the United States. The department maintains a migrant education program, which provides services to children of migrant families. Because no unified system exists to track students, many have incomplete records and may not be receiving appropriate support. As part of the No Child Left Behind Act, the department was charged with developing a nationwide electronic system for tracking such students, whose families move around the country following jobs in the agriculture, fishing, and timber industries. Officials from the department have requested information from vendors about how best to construct a system that can accurately track itinerant students while protecting their personal information.
    Federal Computer Week, 10 December 2004 (via Edupage)

    Math teacher pay doesn’t add up
    Consider this word problem: If a nation already has shortages of math teachers, millions of existing teachers are on the verge of retirement, and the average graduate with a degree in math, engineering, or science can make $30,000 to $40,000 more per year going to work at Dell, 3M, or IBM than at his or her local public school, what will it take for our schools to attract the quality talent they need to educate the next generation? And if we fail to face the problem, how can we possibly prepare the next generation of scientists, engineers, mathematicians, and computer programmers?
    (From the Christian Science Monitor).

    Air Force Secretary James Roche announced plans to merge three technology offices at Air Force headquarters and the Pentagon into one organization called Networks and Warfighting Integration. A lieutenant general will become director of the new organization and also serve as the Air Force CIO. A senior civilian executive will serve as deputy. The implementation plan for the merger is expected to go to Roche in January 2005.
    Federal Computer Week, 7 December 2004 via Edupage


    Salinas to Close All Public Libraries
    California Town Shutters Libraries
    Beleaguered Salinas plans to close its libraries: Officials slashing $8 million from annual city budget. “The life-size statue of author John Steinbeck that stands in front of this city’s main library wears an exasperated expression, and no wonder. This agricultural city of 150,000 is so broke that city officials plan to close all three of its libraries in January — an act that surely would try the patience of its most famous literary son. It would also make Salinas the biggest city west of the Mississippi, and possibly in the United States, with no public library.” (From Resource Shelf)

    Building With Books
    This site offers an alternative for disposing of undesirable books: build them into furniture. The site documents the exhibition of lamps, umbrella stands, picture frames, and related objects, along with “photographs of the process, [and] publicity posters.” The project was the result of a classroom and library collaboration at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). (From Librarian’s Index to the Internet)

    Panama Pacific International Exposition in 3D
    Dozens of stereographic (three-dimensional) images first published to advertise the 1915 World’s Fair in San Francisco, known formally as the Panama Pacific International Exposition. “Viewing the Stereographs” includes instructions for making or purchasing the 3-D lenses required to fully appreciate the special effects. Digitized for the San Francisco Exploratorium from a collection held by librarian Bess Moffitt. (From Librarian’s Index to the Internet)

    Engineer Humor
    Does your child show dangerous developmental signs?