Sci-Tech Library Newsletter


Newsletter archive > 2005 October 18 Issue

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  1. Hurricane Katrina: Resources and donations for scientists
  2. Science Policy
  3. Around DC and on the Net
  4. New E-Books, Reports, and Journals
  5. Interesting Websites and News from the Internet: 2005 Nobel Prizes, Directory of Persecuted Scientists, Engineers, and Health Professionals, 10th edition, 2005 Science and Engineering Visualization Challenge; Biological Sciences: Electronic Biologia Centrali-Americana, Nature’s Revenge: Louisiana’s Vanishing Wetlands, The River Returns; Education and Human Resources: Events in Science, SPIR: Science Program Improvement Review, Science Education & You; Engineering: U.S. Civil Engineering Schools, Students Launch Satellite, Renewable Energy Policy Project, The Patent Room; Geosciences: Investigate Climate Change,, Mystery of the Megaflood, Geologic Time: The Story of a Changing Earth, Google Earth Hurricane Katrina Images; Mathematical and Physical Sciences: The 10th Planet, Kung Fu Science, Einstein’s Big Idea, Origins; Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences: Ice Mummies: Frozen in Heaven, Interactive Dig Sagalassos: City in the Clouds, Ancient Architects of the Mississippi, Eternity Travel, PASt Explorers, MindZone …and more… plus news items from Edupage
  6. Inter-Alia: The Gettysburg Address in PowerPoint…
  1. Hurricane Katrina

    Donate and Find Resources
    Find Science Content
    Hurricane Katrina Resources listed by Librarian’s Index to the Internet
    Visit the AAAS online brokering system if you are a scientist, engineer, or teacher in need of resources, or if you have resources to share.

    Read freely accessible Science articles related to hurricanes, coastal disasters, and disaster policy.

    The folks at Librarian’s Index to the Internet have listed, categorized and annotated a wide variety of excellent we resources.

  2. Science Policy

    UN General Assembly Urged to Strengthen Worldwide Capacities in Science, Technology, and Innovation
    “In an unprecedented statement to the UN General Assembly, the leadership of international scientific, engineering, and medical organizations urged the Heads of State and Government meeting in New York in September 2005 to strengthen worldwide capacities in science, technology, and innovation. Stronger capacities in science and technology are required to allow humanity to achieve the UN Millennium Development Goals, the statement concludes. In September 2000, 147 heads of State and Government, and 189 nations in total, committed themselves by year 2015 to reduce significantly global poverty and the related problems of illiteracy, hunger, discrimination against women, unsafe drinking water, and degraded environments and ecosystems.”

    Federal FY06 R&D Funding

    Updated Table on the Status of FY 2006 Appropriations
    “Fiscal year (FY) 2006 began on October 1, but the FY 2006 budget is far from finished and the prospects for federal research and development (R&D) funding are uncertain. The burgeoning costs of responding to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita have not only delayed the FY 2006 appropriations process but have also set off a scramble to find offsetting domestic spending cuts that could hit R&D programs, according to the AAAS October Status Report on R&D in FY 2006 Appropriations, now available on the AAAS R&D web site.”

    Calling All Techies

    Bipartisan Letter
    ACM’s President Dave Patterson’s Statement
    “The aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita has revived an old idea that the federal government maintain lists of rapid response teams comprised of private sector technical experts to help rebuild after a disaster or terrorist attack. Called the ‘NET Guard,’ Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) originally proposed this idea as part of the legislation that created the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The provision was included in the final agreement, but the department has never implemented the program. Recently, however, Senators Wyden and George Allen (R-VA) released a bipartisan letter calling on the department to implement this law.

    It isn’t clear why DHS never implemented NET Guard. It could be a lack of funding or interest. A sticking point could also be liability. The act does not expressively shield a volunteer from liability for his or her actions. For example, if the volunteer installs a faulty network that causes harm, it isn’t clear whether or not that person could be held civilly liable. The Federal Tort Claims Act shields medical workers in such circumstances, but it isn’t clear if this protection would extend to technology workers.

    Meanwhile, ACM’s President Dave Patterson issued a statement to ACM members with suggestions on what the technology community can do to help. (From ACM Washington Update)

    Congress and Climate Change
    Statement by Domenici
    Climate Change Science and Economics
    Role of Science in Decision-Making
    NOAA Hurricane Forecasting
    Kyoto Protocol Hearings
    The Lifesaving Role of Accurate Hurricane Prediction
    Recent events include:

    The Use of Science in Decision Making: Senate Hearing Features Michael Crichton. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee held a hearing on September 28 on the use of science in environmental decision making. Although topics ranged from the ban on DDT to the Endangered Species Act, the majority of the hearing centered on global climate change.

    The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing on September 20 titled “Climate Change Science and Economics.”

    Senate Environment and Public Works hearing on the Kyoto Protocol. The Senate Environment and Public Works committee held a hearing on the Kyoto Protocol on October 4. It was noted in nearly all of the opening statements that the U.S. rejected the protocol, primarily due to its economic effects and the lack of participation of developing countries, particularly China and India.

    House Science Committee Hearing on Hurricane Prediction: 10–20 More Years of Big Storms. The House Science Committee held a hearing on October 7 on hurricane forecasting, featuring testimony from Brigadier General David L. Johnson (ret.), Director of NOAA’s National Weather Service and Dr. Max Mayfield, Director of the National Weather Service’s National Hurricane Center.

    The Lifesaving Role of Accurate Hurricane Prediction. Most of the Senators at this September 20 hearing by the Senate Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Disaster Prevention and Prediction used their opening remarks to praise NOAA’s National Weather Service (NWS) for accurately predicting the path of Hurricane Katrina.

    (From AAAS Center for Science, Technology, and Congress)

    Rising Above The Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future
    “In a world where advanced knowledge is widespread and low-cost labor is readily available, U.S. advantages in the marketplace and in science and technology have begun to erode. A comprehensive and coordinated federal effort is urgently needed to bolster U.S. competitiveness and pre-eminence in these areas so that the nation will consistently gain from the opportunities offered by rapid globalization, according to a new report from the National Academies.”

    Recommended initiatives include:

    • Recruiting 10,000 students annually to become science and math teachers, thereby educating 10 million young minds, by awarding four-year merit-based scholarships to be paid back through a commitment to teach five years in K-12 schools. Teachers serving in hard-to-staff inner city and rural schools would receive an additional bonus.
    • Strengthening the skills of 250,000 current teachers thru summer institute training programs, in master programs, and thru Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) training programs.
    • Increasing the number of students in AP and IB math and science courses from 1.2 million to 4.5 million by 2010.
    • Other proposals include sustaining and strengthening the nation’s commitment to basic research and developing strategies to recruit and retain the brightest students from within the United States and abroad into science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) careers.
  3. Around DC and on the Net

    Form from the Formless: The Awesome Power of the Embryo
    “How does a single cell become a complex organism? The fascination and challenge of this question, says Hazel Sive, ‘drives me out of bed each day, makes me work long hours and keeps me excited about coming here.’ Sive’s Whitehead lab investigates developing embryos for clues about how cells organize and form tissues and organs. Not only must an embryo determine what kinds of cells to grow, it must also place them in precise patterns, along three dimensions. As the embryo develops, cells signal to each other to move to a specific position, or a regulatory protein sends a command for a cell to align itself in a certain way. Sive’s particularly interested in the evolution of brain structure. Zebra fish serve as her model. The tiny, transparent embryos of this fish enable her to ‘look directly into the brain in a noninvasive way.’”

    Narratives of Science
    “In a biography of Beethoven, you’d be writing about the struggle to compose — in a way not so different from a scientist’s struggle to do a perfect experiment. If you were living up to the promise of a biography of a genius, you’d feel the appropriate burden of conveying the genius of Beethoven’s music, just as you would the difficulty of reflecting the genius of a scientist.”

    In the final panel from this series, writers Kanigel, Levenson, and Lightman discuss the role of storytelling, travelogues and biography in the evolution of science writing.

    Space Settlement: Homesteading on the Moon? Oct 26
    Wednesday, October 26th, 2005,
    12:30–2:00 PM,
    Keck 201 Conference Room, National Academy of Sciences

    The degree to which land on the moon may be owned has been the subject of debate and international treaties since the start of the Cold War. This seminar will address the relationship of existing treaties to lunar property rights and the role of such ownership as an incentive for commercial space settlement. Panelists will address the following questions:

    • Why settle the moon?
    • What are the policy implications of a lunar settlement?
    • What are the opportunities and challenges?
    • Should privately funded missions play a role in lunar settlement?

    NOTE: Seating is limited. An RSVP would be appreciated.

    Jefferson Science Fellows
    The Jefferson Science Fellows Program is now accepting applications. Administered by the National Academies, the program offers senior academic scientists and engineers the opportunity to advise State Department policy-makers on science and technology. Each Fellow will spend one year at the U.S. Department of State for an on-site assignment in Washington, D.C. that may also involve extended stays at U.S. foreign embassies or missions. Applications are due Dec. 1.

    Evolution of Biological Complexity, Oct. 20
    Thursday October 20, 2005
    AAAS, 1200 New York Avenue, NW
    Washington, DC 20005
    Reception 5:15 p.m.,
    Lecture and Discussion 6:00–8:00 p.m.

    It is often claimed that Darwin’s theory of evolution is incomplete because it cannot account for the evolution of complex adaptive traits via the accumulation of mutations. At the same time, the concept of biological complexity itself—how it may be defined and whether complexity increases in evolution—is often perceived as controversial. In this talk, Dr. Adami will address both concerns: the definition of complexity and whether there is a trend in its evolution, as well as the mechanisms by which complex traits evolve that appear to be “irreducible”. Evidence from experiments that study the evolution of complexity in a digital life form will be shared. These experiments show that complex adaptive traits do emerge via standard Darwinian mechanisms, and that this evolution is accompanied by an increase in a suitably defined measure of complexity.

    Synthetic Biology: Hardware, Software, and Wetware, Nov 10
    Thursday November 10, 2005
    AAAS, 1200 New York Avenue, NW
    Washington, DC 20005
    Reception 5:15 p.m.
    Lecture and Discussion 6:00–8:00 p.m.

    Synthetic Biology as a scientific discipline aims to generate novel biological functions through the design and construction of living systems. As such, Synthetic Biology includes the development of tools for constructing and redesigning organisms and has parallels to computer science and engineering. Such organisms could be used to, for example, sense the presence of a drug or the age of a cell and generate readout. Synthetic Biology currently encompasses a number of engineering strategies including applied protein design, genome design and construction, natural product drug synthesis, and the creation of standardized parts to build circuits into cells. Examples of the tools and design of biological circuits based on the organization of eukaryotic cells will be presented. In addition, Synthetic Biology has served as a catalyst for educational efforts that integrate students from various disciplines such as computer science and engineering with biology. Ongoing efforts in education and creation of an open scientific community will also be presented.

    Our Brains and Us: Neuroethics, Responsibility and the Self
    Audio is now available for Our Brains and Us: Neuroethics, Responsibility and the Self, a public conference held April 17–19, 2005 at MIT. Age-old questions like “Who am I?” and “Why am I here?” have motivated inquiry about ourselves and the universe around us. These same questions continue to inspire philosophical and religious quests for understanding.

  4. New E-Books, Reports, and Journals

    Rising Above The Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future. NAP, 2005.

    Tutorials in contemporary nonlinear methods for the behavioral sciences. Edited by Michael A. Riley & Guy C. Van Orden. The authors, 2005.

    Hamer, Rebecca. Stimulating Science and Technology in Higher Education: An international comparison of policy measures and their effectiveness. RAND, 2005.

    Hosek, S.D. Gender Differences in Major Federal External Grant Programs. RAND, 2005.

    Environmental Information: Status of Federal Data Programs That Support Ecological Indicators. GAO, 2005.

    Federal Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Programs and Related Trends. GAO, 2005.

    Examining Gaps in Mathematics Achievement Among Racial-Ethnic Groups, 1972–1992. RAND, 2005.

    Security Controls on the Access of Foreign Scientists and Engineers to the United States. CSIS, 2005.

    National Science Foundation Facility Plan. NSF, 2005.

    Climate Change: Federal Reports on Climate Change Funding Should Be Clearer and More Complete. GAO, 2005.

    Saving America’s Arctic: Dispelling Myths about Drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. USPIRG, 2005.

    Somi Seong, Steven W. Popper and Kungang Zheng. Strategic Choices in Science and Technology: Korea in the Era of a Rising China. Rand, 2005.

    Goodall, Amanda. Should Top Universities Be Led By Top Researchers and Are They? Univ. of Warwick, 2005.

    Addressing Our Global Water Future. Sandia Laboratories, 2005.

    Integrating Marine Science in Europe. European Science Foundation, 2005.

    High-Performance Government: Structure, Leadership, Incentives. Rand, 2005.

    Modeling in Coastal and Shelf Seas. ESF, 2005.

    Initial employment report: physics and astronomy degree recipients 2001 & 2002. AIP, 2005.

    Bartis, James T., et al. Oil Shale Development in the United States: Prospects and Policy Issues. RAND, 2005.

    RAND Forum on Hydrogen Technology and Policy: A Conference Report. RAND, 2005.

    Brookes, Graham. GM crops: the global socioeconomic and environmental impact — the first nine years 1996–2004. PG Economics, Ltd., 2005.

    Lewis, Rosalind, et al. Building a Multinational Global Navigation Satellite System: An Initial Look. RAND, 2005.

    Japan’s Space Program: A Fork in the Road? by Steven Berner. RAND, 2005.

    Carroll, Stephen J., et al. Asbestos Litigation. RAND, 2005.

    Steele, Brett. Military Reengineering Between the World Wars. RAND, 2005.

    Federal Protection for Human Research Subjects: An Analysis of the Common Rule and Its Interactions with FDA Regulations and the HIPAA Privacy Rule, updated June 2, 2005. CRS, 2005.

    Tsunamis: Monitoring, Detection, and Early Warning Systems, updated June 1, 2005. CRS, 2005.

    Technology Assessment in Congress: History and Legislative Options, updated May 20, 2005. CRS, 2005.

    Background Paper: R&D and Productivity Growth, June 2005. CBO, 2005.

    Wind Power: Impacts on Wildlife and Government Responsibilities for Regulating Development and Protecting Wildlife. GAO, 2005.

    Stimulating Science and Technology in Higher Education: An international comparison of policy measures and their effectiveness. RAND, 2005.

    Gender Differences in Major Federal External Grant Programs. RAND, 2005.

    Protecting Biodiversity: A Guide to Criteria Used by Global Conservation Organizations. Yale University, Global Institute of Sustainable Forestry, 2005.

    Water Resources Planning for the Upper Mississippi River and Illinois Waterway. NAP, 2005.

    Review of the Department of Defense Research Program on Low-Level Exposures to Chemical Warfare Agents. NAP, 2005.

    Asking the Right Questions About Electronic Voting. NAP, 2005.

    John R. La Montagne Memorial Symposium on Pandemic Influenza Research: Meeting Proceedings. NAP, 2005.

    Policy Implications of International Graduate Students and Postdoctoral Scholars in the United States. NAP, 2005.

    Thinking Strategically: The Appropriate Use of Metrics for the Climate Change Science Program. NAP, 2005.

    Earth Science and Applications from Space: Urgent Needs and Opportunities to Serve the Nation. NAP, 2005.

    Effects of Nuclear Earth-Penetrator and Other Weapons. NAP, 2005.

    Enhancing the Community College Pathway to Engineering Careers (prepublication). NAP, 2005.

    Strengthening U.S-Russian Cooperation on Nuclear Nonproliferation. NAP, 2005.

    Informed Public Perceptions of Nanotechnology and Trust in Government. Wilson Center, 2005.

    Assessment of the Scientific Information for the Radiation Exposure Screening and Education Program. NAP, 2005.

    Expanding Access to Research Data: Reconciling Risks and Opportunities (prepublication). NAP, 2005.

    Integrating Employee Health: A Model Program for NASA. NAP, 2005.

    Monitoring at Chemical Agent Disposal Facilities (prepublication). NAP, 2005.

    Priorities in Space Science Enabled by Nuclear Power and Propulsion (prepublication) SUMMARY ONLY. NAP, 2005.

    Sustainability in the Chemical Industry: Grand Challenges and Research Needs — A Workshop Report (prepublication). NAP, 2005.

    Building a Better Delivery System: A New Engineering/Health Care Partnership. NAP, 2005.

    Deconstructing the Computer: Report of a Symposium. NAP, 2005.

    Educating the Engineer of 2020: Adapting Engineering Education to the New Century. NAP, 2005.

    Electronic Brains: Stories from the Dawn of the Computer Age. NAP, 2005.

    Engineering Research and America’s Future: Meeting the Challenges of a Global Economy. NAP, 2005.

    FORCEnet Implementation Strategy (prepublication). NAP, 2005.

    Frontiers of Bioinformatics: Unsolved Problems and Challenges (Sackler NAS Colloquium). NAP, 2005.

    Going to Extremes: Meeting the Emerging Demand for Durable Polymer Matrix Composites. NAP, 2005.

    An International Spent Nuclear Fuel Storage Facility — Exploring a Russian Site as a Prototype: Proceedings of an International Workshop. NAP, 2005.

    Naval Analytical Capabilities: Improving Capabilities-Based Planning. NAP, 2005.

    Population, Land Use, and Environment: Research Directions. NAP, 2005.

    The Role of Science in Solving the Earth Emerging Water Problems (Sackler NAS Colloquium). NAP, 2005.

    Strategic Guidance for the National Science Foundation’s Support of the Atmospheric Sciences: An Interim Report (prepublication). NAP, 2005.

    Summary of a Workshop on Using Information Technology to Enhance Disaster Management (prepublication). NAP, 2005.

    Technology Pathways: Assessing the Integrated Plan for a Next Generation Air Transportation System. NAP, 2005.

    Improving Breast Imaging Quality Standards. NAP, 2005.

    Gulf War and Health: Volume 3. Fuels, Combustion Products, and Propellants. NAP, 2005.

    Systematics and the Origin of Species: On Ernst Mayr’s 100th Anniversary. NAP, 2005.

    An International Spent Nuclear Fuel Storage Facility — Exploring a Russian Site as a Prototype: Proceedings of an International Workshop. NAP, 2005.

    Technology Pathways: Assessing the Integrated Plan for a Next Generation Air Transportation System. NAP, 2005.

    DNA Research
    Oxford University Press and Kazusa DNA Research Institute are pleased to announce that the full text of DNA Research is available online. DNA Research (print ISSN: 1340-2838) is an internationally peer-reviewed journal which aims to publish the highest quality papers on structures and function of genes and genomes. Emphasis has been made on the following subjects: 1) Sequencing and mapping of genes and genomes, 2) Comprehensive analysis of functions of genes and genomes, 3) Techniques and equipments useful for structural and functional analysis of genes and genomes, 4) Computer algorithms and/or their applications relevant to structural and functional analysis of genes and genomes.

    The Journal was launched in 1994 by Kazusa DNA Research Institute for publication of fine research in the growing field of genomic research. The online version of the journal was launched in 2000, and the journal has ever since been proud of providing the journal open access. DNA Research continues to provide its online journal open access at a very low author charge.

    DNA Research Online contains the full content of each issue of the journal in PDF format beginning with the 1994 issue (Volume 1, Issue 1).

    Each issue will be placed online approximately on the date it is mailed to subscribers; therefore the online site will be available prior to receipt of your paper copy. The 2005 issue (Volume 12, Issue 2) is the latest issue online. Online readers may want to sign up for the eTOC (electronic Table of Contents) service, which will deliver each new issue’s table of contents via email. The web site also provides access to information about the journal (such as Instructions to Authors, the Editorial Board, and subscription information).

  5. Interesting Websites and News from the Internet

    Directory of Persecuted Scientists, Engineers, and Health Professionals, 10th edition
    Grim reading.

    2005 Nobel Prizes

    2005 Science and Engineering Visualization Challenge
    “Capturing the essence of a scientific idea through accurate and handsome visuals is critical to the communication of research results and phenomena. Nine masters of this art have been honored in the 2005 Science and Engineering Visualization Challenge, sponsored jointly by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and Science/AAAS. The winning entries in illustration, information graphics, photography, interactive and non-interactive media were shown in the 23 September issue of Science and may be seen online.” (From AAAS Newsletter)

    Biological Sciences

    The River Returns
    An in-depth, educational web documentary about Florida’s St. Johns River was launched to help educate state residents about the 310-mile river system, threats to its watershed and efforts to protect the historic river.

    The web production takes site visitors on a photo-documentary journey to learn about scientists monitoring the river’s health, river-side farmers growing crops that require less fertilizer, citizens promoting landscaping with native plants, and even a biologist monitoring a lone whooping crane that has taken up residence in the St. Johns River’s headwaters. The site also includes multi-media stories introducing people like Adam Delaney, a bass fishing guide who helps others catch the river’s legendary largemouth bass, and Wayne Hartley, a park ranger who has been monitoring manatees at Blue Spring State Park for 25 years., is a companion to the High Definition television documentary “Water’s Journey: The River Returns,” which begins airing this month on public television stations in Florida and throughout the nation. film and web documentaries were produced with support from the St. Johns River Water Management District, the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Florida Department of Education.

    Electronic Biologia Centrali-Americana
    Between 1879 and 1915, two editors published a series they called Biología Centrali-Americana, a catalog of the plants and animals of Mexico and Central America. With over 50,000 descriptions and 18,000 images, this astonishing work “contained nearly everything known” of the region’s biodiversity at the time of its publication. Did we mention it weighed in at 63 volumes? Only eight libraries hold the entire set, and, some time ago, it slipped out of print. However, The Smithsonian and London’s Natural History Museum (among others) have been hard at work to rectify that sad state of affairs. Over the past years, they’ve uploaded much of the series’ biological volumes to the Web. Because of their labors, we can now spend all the time we want hanging out with the mammals, swimming with the fishes, and sniffing the flowers of turn-of-the-century Mesoamerica. (From Yahoo’s Picks of the Week)

    Nature’s Revenge: Louisiana’s Vanishing Wetlands
    “Every year, a chunk of land almost the size of Manhattan turns into open water in Louisiana.” This 2002 American RadioWorks series looks at “one of the worst and least-publicized environmental disasters in America’s history.” Discusses warnings by activists and environmentalists, ideas to save the wetlands (including flooding the area with water from the Mississippi River), and hurricane risk for New Orleans. Includes audio and transcripts from the program. (From Librarian’s Index to the Internet)

    Education and Human Resources

    Events in Science
    NSTA provides this calender of coming events for teachers of science. Events are drawn from all sources and can be accessed by subject, region, etc.

    SPIR: Science Program Improvement Review
    NSTA is proud to launch a new professional development initiative that is available to help teachers and administrators assess — then strengthen — the science instruction being provided to their students. The NSTA Science Program Improvement Review (SPIR) is a standards-based strategy that culminates in a comprehensive written assessment of a school’s or district’s science instructional program as well as recommendations for improvement and advancement as needed.

    NSTA’s SPIR program is designed to assess a school’s complete science instructional program across all grade levels. NSTA-trained and certified SPIR reviewers will work with the school’s or district’s teachers and administrators to align the science instruction more closely with state and national science standards for teaching, professional development, assessment, content, and program. The first SPIR review teams are heading into school districts across the country this fall.

    Science Education & You
    The US House of Representatives Science Committee has a link on their web site titled “Science Education and You,” which can help teachers (and students) access federal science and mathematics resources.

    Model lesson plans organized by grade level and other resources from the Department of Energy, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Science Foundation, and the Environmental Protection Agency can be found at the site. Students will find links that allow them to ask scientists questions.


    U.S. Civil Engineering Schools
    This table, presented by ENR, is “not a ranking of civil engineering schools. It is an informational tool for students and others to use in learning more about and comparing these programs. Civil engineering (CE) programs within colleges and universities are grouped geographically by standard zones of the American Society of Civil Engineers and are listed alphabeticallly.” Tables include information on tuition costs, enrollment and faculty.

    Students Launch Satellite
    “A microsatellite built largely from donated parts in university workshops across Europe is just over one week from launch. It is the first in a trio of student-built spacecraft that will ultimately reach for the Moon. It took only 18 months for more than 400 students — spread across 23 universities and 12 countries — to design and build the SSETI Express spacecraft. Set to launch from Russia’s Plesetsk Cosmodrome on Sept. 30, the project is part an education effort by the European Space Agency (ESA) to boost student interest in space technology and offer some hands-on experience.” (by Tariq Malik)

    Renewable Energy Policy Project
    Established in 1995 with funding from the Energy Foundation and the Department of Energy, the Renewable Energy Policy Project (REPP) has spent the past decade educating the general public about renewable energies. This is accomplished by providing competent and rigorous policy analysis about the myriad of issues surrounding the viability and sustainability of such energy sources. Visitors to the site’s homepage will find clickable icons (such as those depicting wind, solar, and hydrogen), and they can discover the variety of resources associated with each type of renewable energy source. These resources generally include a brief description of the REPP’s work in each field, along with links to some of their more recent working papers and policy briefs. For persons who hope to join the discussion about some of these timely topics, the site also maintains a number of relevant listservs, such as those dealing with bioconversion and strawbale conversion. [KMG] (From the Scout Report)

    The Patent Room
    Here at Picks, we salute the madcap inventor, the wild-eyed professor, and the gleeful geek with a get-rich-quick gleam in his eye. So it should come as no surprise that we peeked behind the door of the Patent Room with great anticipation. We weren’t disappointed. This site pays tribute to the dreams and labors of early-20th-century industrial designers through drawings culled from the U.S. Patent Office archives. We particularly loved the architectural marvels: the corn cob diner, the refreshment stand flanked by two gigantic ice-cream cones, a gas station’s swooping googie design. From the Official Rex Mars Planet Patrol Atomic Pistol to a 1957 amphibious automobile, from a boy Bunny Tot doll to a self-righting signal torch, these images run the gamut from lovely to ludicrous. But they all shine with an entrepreneurial gloss that manages to be entirely charming. (From Yahoo’s Picks of the Week)


    Geologic Time: The Story of a Changing Earth
    It’s hard imagining how one could fit the entirety of geologic time onto one website, but the staff members of the department of paleobiology at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History have done an excellent job with this site. The intent of the site is to provide an interactive timeline of geological history, beginning with the Hadean eon and proceeding all the way to the current day. After a compelling introductory section, visitors are led into the elegant timeline interface which allows them to explore the site’s primary contents. Using a drag tool, visitors can move around the span of the different geological eons, eras, periods, and epochs in a direct fashion. Clicking on each of the icons within each division of time brings up a brief overview of each segment, along with a map of each period, complete with various renderings of the conditions that existed on the Earth at the time. Visitors will also appreciate the “Foundational Concepts” area, which provides a foundation for understanding the nature of geology, such as the importance of different dating methods and earth processes. Overall, this site is extraordinarily helpful, both for the general public and for more seasoned amateur geologists. [KMG] (From the Scout Report)

    Investigate Climate Change
    See how physicists, meteorologists, and biologists study weather and climate. Even small changes in the average temperature of the earth could have major effects, including an increase in the strength of storms like hurricanes and typhoons. Learn about the interconnected systems that affect the weather—and the role human activity plays in changing global climate—by visiting the Exploratorium’s Global Climate Change: Research Explorer Web site.

    Mystery of the Megaflood
    One of the Earth’s strangest geological riddles is the evidence for a huge catastrophe that struck eastern Washington State thousands of years ago. It took scientists decades to figure out that a colossal flood had carved out bizarre landscape features strewn across thousands of square miles. On “Mystery of the Megaflood,” NOVA gets to the bottom of what created this compelling detective story. The program features a dogged geologist sticking to his bold theory for decades despite virtual professional banishment. Eventually, other geologists joined his cause and filled in the intricate details, which NOVA recreates in stunning computer animation to show what may be one of the most spectacular series of events ever to occur on our planet.

    Google Earth Hurricane Katrina Images
    Fascinating and grim images.
    “RealClimate is a commentary site on climate science by working climate scientists for the interested public and journalists. We aim to provide a quick response to developing stories and provide the context sometimes missing in mainstream commentary. The discussion here is restricted to scientific topics and will not get involved in any political or economic implications of the science.”

    Mathematical and Physical Sciences

    Kung Fu Science
    In a feat as daring as Jackie Chan fending off multiple attackers with a single kick, this site explores the physics behind the iron fist of Kung Fu. But this isn’t some late-night chopsocky with wires and gags. This is the real deal, where scientific theorems and slow-motion sports videos document and examine a martial artist’s lightning-fast arm — and a newcomer’s attempt to emulate him. Chris, a Kung Fu expert with a fondness for breaking concrete blocks, meets Michelle, a scientist at the Institute of Physics. They join forces to see if Michelle, who is still learning Kung Fu, can break three pieces of pine board with her bare hand. Before making the attempt, Michelle draws on her knowledge of Newton’s Laws. We won’t tell you if she succeeds, but we promise you’ll enjoy finding out. (From Yahoo’s Picks of the Week)

    “Has the universe always existed? How did it become a place that could harbor life? Are we alone, or are there alien worlds waiting to be discovered? NOVA presents some startling new answers in ‘Origins,’ a groundbreaking four-part miniseries hosted by Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist and Director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History. The series investigates new clues from the frontiers of science as Tyson guides viewers on a cosmic journey to the beginning of time and to the depths of space, searching for life’s first stirrings and its traces on other worlds.

    Here’s what you’ll find on the companion Web site:

    Inquiry, Interviews, and More

    • Life’s Little Essential — Everybody knows that liquid water is necessary for life. But just why exactly?
    • A Conversation With Neil deGrasse Tyson — Hear from the series host on the hottest discoveries in origins research, his advice for budding scientists, and more.
    • How did Life Begin? — Harvard’s Andrew Knoll discusses the deeply mysterious jump long ago from non-living to living.
    • Does Mars Have Life? — NASA’s Christopher McKay thinks the red planet once had living things and maybe, just maybe, still does.
    • Who Needs Galaxies? — Astronomer Sandra Faber explains how galaxies brew the ingredients for life.
    • Are We Alone? — Paleontologist Peter Ward says that as intelligent creatures, we humans are probably not alone in the universe, just very lonely.
    • The Drake Equation — Try your hand at calculating how many intelligent, communicating civilizations might be in our galaxy.
    • Decoding Cosmic Spectra — Play astronomer and analyze the spectral fingerprints of a planet, star, galaxy, and nebula.
    • The Pillars of Creation — Assemble the famous image of the Eagle Nebula from raw data beamed down from the Hubble Space Telescope.
    • The Origins Game — Where are scientists making the great discoveries in origins research? Check out our world map.
    • History of the Universe — This interactive time line chronicles the evolution of the universe from the big bang to 10 to the 100 years from now.
    • A Brief History of Life — Review the grand march of organisms from over three billion years ago to the present.
    • ET Gallery — Sci-fi films and T.V. shows reveal how limited our imagination is when it comes to alien life.

    The 10th Planet

    10th “planet” discovery creates excitement and debate
    Bid to solve dispute over planets
    “10th” Planet has moon companion
    Information on the telescope used to discover Xena and Gabrielle
    Discovery of Xena’s moon
    Discovery of 2003 UB313 the 10th Planet
    International Astronomical Union
    Kuiper Belt page
    The newly discovered “planet” 2003 UB313, otherwise known as Xena, now has a companion in the solar system. Originally spotted in 2003, Xena was not officially announced until July of 2005. On the heels of the publication of Xena’s existence, comes the revelation that Xena has a moon, named Gabrielle. The names Xena and Gabrielle are only temporary, used by some astronomers because they are simpler to remember than names such as 2003 UB313. To decide the official name, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) must first decide if Xena is in fact a planet, then they will decide if the discoverers’ proposed name will be used. The astronomers who discovered both Xena and Gabrielle cannot reveal their proposed name, so until then the nicknames will have to suffice. Xena was found in the Kuiper Belt, which is a huge region of icy planetary bodies that orbit beyond Neptune in the distant region of the solar system. The discovery of this new planet and its moon has reignited the debate about what properties an object must possess in order to be classed as a planet. Prior to this newest discovery, Pluto’s status as a planet was already in question by some astronomers. But while Pluto rests on 100 years of history as a planet, newly discovered bodies are not so easily defined. Until the IAU can agree on a definition of a planet, Pluto will continue to hang on tenuously to its status as one of nine planets, and its mnemonic device, My Very Excellent Mother Just Sent Us Nine Pizzas, will remain as well. While the public awaits the final definition of what constitutes a planet, both school children and adults alike can rest easy and will not yet have to ponder what else our excellent mother will send us.

    The first link takes users to the announcement of the discovery of Xena in August made in the Yale Daily News. The second link takes the user to an article from the BBC further discussing the planetary debate. The third link is a BBC article that includes this week’s announcement about Xena’s moon. For further knowledge about the astronomers and telescope involved with these two discoveries, among others, the fourth link will take the user to their website. The fifth and sixth link will take the user directly to the discovering astronomers’ website for the announcements about the new moon, Xena, and information on the progress of the IAU. If you are interested in the IAU, the seventh link will take you to their website. And finally the last link will take you to a website dedicated to providing more information on the Kuiper Belt and the icy bodies that make up this far region of our solar system. [CMH] (From the Scout Report)

    Einstein’s Big Idea
    Exactly 100 years ago, Albert Einstein grappled with the implications of his revolutionary special theory of relativity and came to a startling conclusion: mass and energy are one, related by the formula E = mc2. In “Einstein’s Big Idea,” NOVA dramatizes the remarkable story behind this equation. Based on David Bodanis’s bestselling book E = mc2: A Biography of the World’s Most Famous Equation, the program explores the lives of the men and women who helped develop the concepts behind each term in the equation: E for energy; m for mass; c for the speed of light; and 2 for “squared,” the multiplication of one number by itself. Like a multi-plot novel building to a climactic scene, “Einstein’s Big Idea” traces the stories of a fascinating range of characters.

    Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences

    “As incidences of mental health problems among teenagers increase, it is important to make the general public aware of what resources are available to help these individuals (and those who care about them) with such issues. The MindZone site is sponsored by the Annenberg Foundation Trust at Sunnylands with support from the Annenberg Public Policy of the University of Pennsylvania. The site itself is divided into three separate sections: Cope, Care, and Deal. Within each section, users can take quizzes about mental health and learn about how to explore the feelings associated with depressions, suicide, and a number of other conditions. In the MindZone Machine area, users can learn about different anxiety orders and get answers to frequently asked questions. Finally, the site is rounded out by an Ask the Expert area, where visitors can find thoughtful responses to such queries as: ‘Do people with schizophrenia have multiple personalities?’.” [KMG] (From the Scout Report)

    Ancient Architects of the Mississippi
    Several thousands of years ago in the lower Mississippi River Delta, Native Americans began constructing mounds to bury the dead. For the next fifteen centuries, these various groups would build what may be called the first dense urban settlements in what would later become the United States. Today some of these former settlements and earthworks are overseen by the National Park Service, which has seen fit to create this website to provide information to the general public. Here visitors can review information about these settlements, view a timeline of related events, and learn about the complex nature of trade within and among these communities. The site also has a “Delta Voices” section, which contains some brief quotations from early explorers who traversed the area, along with comments from Native Americans and perspectives from contemporary archaeologists and scholars. [KMG] (From the Scout Report)

    Interactive Dig Sagalassos: City in the Clouds
    At the beginning of the 18th century, Sagalassos, City in the Clouds, was discovered in Turkey. Upon first seeing the ruined city, Paul Lucas, on a mission for Louis XIV, described the ruined city as someplace once inhabited by fairies. Over a century later, the preserved ruins of Sagalassos were considered indispensable by students of antiquity, and in modern times, the site has been excavated extensively by a team of scholars from the Catholic University of Leuven. This site is designed by the good people at Archaeology Magazine for people interested in the site who cannot make it to Turkey themselves. On the site, visitors can read field reports from the different areas of the site (such as the Roman baths located there), look at the “Find Of Week” item, and learn about the daily life in and around the camp. Additionally, visitors would do well to consult the map of the excavation site in order to accurately gauge their bearings within the ancient city and Turkey. [KMG] (From the Scout Report)

    Eternity Travel
    There are a number of novel and intriguing ways to present information via the web, and the Museum of Science in Boston has struck on one with this rather fine site. With the intent of introducing interested parties to the world of funerary practices in ancient Egypt, the site allows visitors to spend 3300 debens (an unit of currency from that period) on selecting their own tomb, mummification, mummy case, and “extras” (such as an amulet or a statuette). Visitors begin by reading a welcome statement about this process, and they can add items to their shopping cart, all the while learning about this fascinating aspect of world history. Of course, visitors can also click on a number of hypertext links embedded within the item descriptions to learn more such topics as the benefits of selecting a shallow urban grave or a canopic jar. [KMG] (From the Scout Report)

    Ice Mummies: Frozen in Heaven
    “Ice Mummies: Frozen in Heaven”, a companion site to the NOVA program, is the bizarre and fascinating story of the remains of Inca culture, frozen for posterity high in the mountains of the Andes. Evidence has emerged of sacrifice to the mountain gods, whose existence dominated the civilization over 500 years ago. The film traces the frozen bodies of children uncovered by archaeologists in South America, and follows an archaeological expedition to a high-altitude sacred site in search of ritual remains and another body. How did they come to be there? Why did they go to their deaths willingly? What was the religious framework that dictated their sacrifice to fierce gods?

    PASt Explorers
    A database cataloguing rubbish dropped down the toilet, what to do if you find buried treasure and a guide to the sixth century village of West Mucking, are all featured on the latest website set up by the Museums Libraries and Archives Council (MLA). The MLA’s Portable Antiquities Scheme, which is in charge of the service, provides advice and online simulations as well as the archaeology database through the website.

    The database records objects which are found by members of the public and brought to a local finds liaison officer. The system holds pictures, the location and a description of the object. Features on the PAStexporers site include:

    • a day in the life of a “finds liaison officer”
    • an online archeological survey simulating field walking and metal detecting
    • a guide to archaeology and treasure


    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 new report says that the United States stands to lose its leading position in science and research unless efforts are made to strengthen support for educational and other scientific programs. The panel that wrote the report was convened by the National Academies and included representatives from corporations and higher education, as well as Nobel laureates and former presidential appointees. The panel pointed to the narrowing scientific gap between the United States and countries such as China and India; recent results showing declining performance among U.S. students in science and math compared with students around the world; and economic factors that work against U.S. scientific interests. Among the report’s recommendations are funding scholarships to support 10,000 students annually to pursue careers in teaching math and science; allocating money for 30,000 students per year to study science, math, and engineering; and relaxing visa regulations to allow international students to find employment in the United States after they graduate.
    CNET, 13 October 2005 (via Edupage).

    A new report from a National Science Board task force calls on the federal government to implement a clear and focused strategy to ensure that growing collections of information in databases remain accessible and easy to use in the coming years. The report argues that the National Science Foundation (NSF), which has financed many technological developments in recent years, has not crafted policies and strategies that consider and address the range of technologies for storing data. The report praises the improvements that have been made to systems that collect various types of material in digital form and make those materials widely available online, but it says the need is “urgent” for a strategy to guarantee the viability of those materials. The concern, according to the report, is that as technology platforms continue to evolve, some digital content could be left in the lurch, unable to be accessed by newer systems. The report makes a number of recommendations for the NSF, including coordinating efforts between data storage and users of those data, promoting effective training, and supporting efforts to educate “a sufficient number of high-quality data scientists” to manage such systems.
    Inside Higher Ed, 13 October 2005 (via Edupage).

    The National Science Foundation (NSF) has given a glimpse of a proposed initiative to redesign the Internet. Though short on details and currently without funding, the project, called the Global Environment for Networking Investigations, is intended to take a clean-slate approach to designing a new Internet, one that addresses some of the major shortcomings of the current Internet, including security and the growing numbers of individual devices that connect to the network. Increasing transfer speeds is not one of the project’s goals. Leonard Kleinrock, computer scientist at UCLA and one of the developers of Arpanet, precursor to the current Internet, noted that early developers of the Internet did not anticipate its current reach and had no reason to include security as a primary concern. In addition, the network was not designed to accommodate the vast numbers of mobile and wireless devices, as well as remote sensors, that now vie for Internet space. The NSF is seeking participation from other government agencies and from other countries for the project.
    New York Times, 29 August 2005 (registration req’d) via Edupage.

    The National Science Foundation (NSF) has announced that over the next five years it will provide an additional $150 million to the TeraGrid, beyond the $98 million it has already spent on the project. The TeraGrid, which came online in late 2004, is a coordinated system of computing devices, storage capacity, and databases at eight member institutions linked by a high-speed network. John R. Boisseau, director of the Texas Advanced Computing Center, one of the member institutions, said the TeraGrid is “providing a whole fabric for computational science.” Scientists at member institutions have access to more than 40 teraflops of processing power and can move enormous amounts of data across the network in relatively little time. Arden L. Bement Jr., director of the NSF, said the complex scientific problems that the TeraGrid is helping to solve are a key factor in “the development of the next generation of cyberinfrastructure.”
    Chronicle of Higher Education, 19 August 2005 (sub. req’d)via Edupage.

    The European Commission has called for increased research spending at universities and other research organizations, saying that Europe is lagging behind the United States and Japan in such spending. According to the proposal, spending on research should climb to 3 percent of GDP by 2010, up from 1.9 percent in 2003. The report noted that U.S. spending was 2.59 percent and that Japan spent 3.15 percent of GDP. The report also cautions that countries such as China could surpass Europe in research spending as a percentage of GDP, saying that increases in research spending result in direct increases in GDP. Under the proposal, which must be approved by European governments, more money would be devoted to academic research projects and to partnerships between industry and universities. Guenter Verheugen, EU industry commissioner, said, “Every cent which goes into innovation and research is a cent invested in jobs, growth and hence, our future.”
    San Jose Mercury News, 12 October 2005 (via Edupage)
    (Report available from Cordis News)

    A new application developed at Pennsylvania State University at University Park puts P2P technology to use in academic pursuits. Funded in part by a $1.1 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, LionShare allows users to search for and access files on other users’ computers, similar to P2P applications that have opened the door to a wide range of copyright violations. LionShare, in contrast, is designed for academic purposes, including sharing very large files and other educational materials among approved users. For example, faculty can restrict usage to students registered in their classes. In addition, users can attach keywords and other metadata to files, making them easier to locate and organize. Pilot tests of LionShare have been successful. Michael J. Halm, senior strategist for Penn State’s Teaching and Working With Technology office, said that in courses where LionShare was used, although faculty are driving the usage of the tool, students have said they would “definitely use it too” in classes where it was available. The application will be available free from Penn State.
    Chronicle of Higher Education, 20 September 2005 (sub. req’d)(via Edupage)

    After recently releasing an information literacy test geared toward college juniors, the Educational Testing Service (ETS) will begin pilot tests of a similar exam designed for seniors in high school. The new test will give colleges and universities a tool for assessing the technology skills of entering freshman, helping make determinations about whether students are prepared for the technology aspects of college-level work. The junior-level exam has been praised by officials at several campuses that have adopted it, including Ilene F. Rockman of the California State University System. She said the test has shown broad deficiencies in technology skills among students. “[S]tudents may know how to surf the Web, they may know how to download music and send e-mail,” said Rockman, “but that does not mean they know how to analyze information.” Pilot testing of the new exam will begin in January. Until enough data have been gathered to establish a baseline for scoring the exam, participating colleges will receive aggregated scores. Individuals’ scores are expected within a year or so.
    Chronicle of Higher Education, 20 September 2005 (sub. req’d)(via Edupage)

    Education officials said the final piece of the Scottish Schools Digital Network—an intranet connecting 800,000 students and teachers in the country—is ready to be implemented. Education Minister Peter Peacock said that the country has been building infrastructure for some time, including “a large-scale broadband network linking all 32 local councils and a content delivery network providing access to ‘rich’ media such as video and audio clips.” The intranet, which is expected to go online by early 2007, is said to be the first of its kind anywhere in the world. It will provide students and teachers with access to a wide range of educational resources from any computer, allowing students “to do more meaningful work at home” and parents “to take a much more active role in their children’s learning,” according to Peacock. The system will also include tools for sharing ideas, developing online communities, and facilitating audio or video conferences.
    BBC, 21 September 2005 (via Edupage)

    Yahoo has announced a plan to scan large collections of texts into an online digital archive, though officials said their approach differs in important ways from Google’s similar venture, which has drawn extensive criticism and legal action. Yahoo’s initiative, called the Open Content Alliance (OCA), represents a partnership with the University of California, the University of Toronto, the Internet Archive, and several other companies and organizations. Unlike Google’s project, they will not scan any copyrighted work without explicit permission. Organizers of the project said the goal is to digitize and make freely available as much of what is in the public domain as possible. In addition, the archive will not be restricted to users of Yahoo. David Mandelbrot, Yahoo’s vice president for search content, said the texts will be online in such a way that other search engines will be able to locate them. Much of the scanning for the OCA will be done by the Internet Archive, which has already been working with the University of Toronto on scanning several thousand books in its collection.
    Chronicle of Higher Education, 3 October 2005 (via Edupage)

    The Learning Activity Management System (LAMS) Foundation has announced the launch of a new Web site that will allow what it calls “open source teaching,” in which educators can share and modify digital lesson plans. The LAMS Community Web site is based on the .LRN open source platform, developed at MIT. Using the LAMS Community Web site, teachers can search through various subset communities, looking for sequences of learning activities particular to their field. Available communities will initially include developers, technical support, and education, which will offer subcommunities for K-12, higher education and training, and research and development. New communities can be added later, such as a community focused on math teachers in the Boston area. The Web site will allow teachers to share their own learning sequences, access others’ sequences, rate them, and discuss them. All of the content will be used under Creative Commons licenses.
    LAMS Foundation, 30 September 2005 (via Edupage)

    Education officials in the United Kingdom and Ireland have signed an agreement to work together in support of an initiative called the National Digital Repository, which is designed to support higher education e-learning. The repository, which started in January 2005, is to be a collection of components of higher education courses, allowing users to develop online courses in various fields by picking and choosing from among those components. Components can include images, multimedia clips, text, maps, and other elements that can support online learning. The repository is currently funded by the Irish Higher Education Authority (HEA) and the Department of Education and Science. Under the agreement between the HEA and the United Kingdom’s Joint Information Services Committee, the two countries will cooperate “in building a technology infrastructure that provides lifelong access to programs of study for learners in a manner that is flexible and convenient to their particular life circumstances,” according to Tom Boland, chief executive of the HEA.
    Silicon Republic, 29 September 2005 (via Edupage)

    With the help of host countries, MIT is setting up Fab Labs, or fabrication laboratories, around the world. Fab Labs provide an opportunity for individuals to use various technological means to build things that solve local problems. For example, Haakon Karlsen, a rancher who lives hundreds of miles north of the Artic Circle, used a Fab Lab in Norway to devise radio collars for his sheep. The collars help Karlsen locate his sheep in the conditions where he lives, and they send information about whether the flock is moving, what the temperature is, and other data he uses to care for the sheep. Neil Gershenfeld, professor at MIT and director of the university’s Center for Bits and Atoms, said the labs take people out of the role of simply being consumers of technology that is available and puts them in the position of creating the technology they need. For each Fab Lab, MIT pays for equipment, and the host country provides the location for the lab. Officials in South Africa are currently working to introduce not one but four Fab Labs in that country, starting with one just outside Pretoria. Sushil Borde, who is directing the development of Fab Labs in South Africa, said the country hopes the labs will open new avenues for engineers and entrepreneurs to develop their ideas into tangible products.
    BBC, 27 September 2005 (via Edupage)

    A new report from research firm Input forecasts rises in state and local spending for IT in education, but only after several more lean years. The report suggests that spending is not likely to increase significantly until 2008, after which education IT could see healthy investment at the state and local levels. Such growth will depend, however, on reining in costs for health care, said James Krouse, author of the report. “For many years now,” he said, “health care has picked the pocket of education budget.” The problem affects K-12 education more than higher education because colleges and universities typically rely less on public funds and can turn to tuition and fees to meet tight budgets. Overall, Krouse said, it will be a very tough market for the next few years, with “a somewhat…rosy horizon.”
    Federal Computer Week, 13 September 2005 (via Edupage)

    Researchers at the University of California at Berkeley have demonstrated that an audio recording of someone typing on a computer keyboard can reveal with surprising accuracy exactly what they have typed. Using commercially available recording equipment, the researchers captured audio of typing and analyzed the sounds using an algorithm they developed. Because keys make different sounds, the system is able to make educated guesses about what key was pressed in what order. The application then applies some linguistic logic, including spelling and grammar checks, to refine the results. After three rounds of revisions, the application was able to identify 96 percent of the individual characters typed and 88 percent of the words. The application was effective even with background noise, such as music or cell phones ringing. Doug Tygar, UC Berkeley professor of computer science and information management and a principal investigator of the study, said the project should raise concerns about the security risks of such a technology. “If we were able to figure this out,” he said, “it’s likely that people with less honorable intentions can—or have—as well.”
    ZDNet, 14 September 2005 (via Edupage)

    A team of researchers will use a five-year, $7.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to study electronic voting. The grant will support a research center called ACCURATE, A Center for Correct, Usable, Reliable, Auditable, and Transparent Elections. Based at Johns Hopkins University, the center includes researchers from the University of California, Berkeley; Stanford University; Rice University; the University of Iowa; and California-based research firm SRI International. According to Dan Wallach, associate professor of computer science at Rice, “The basic question is, ’How can we employ computer systems as trustworthy election systems when we know computers are not totally reliable, totally secure, or bug-free?’” The ACCURATE project is expected to produce technical standards for electronic voting and to develop secure voting systems that are easy to use.
    Washington Times, 17 August 2005 (via Edupage)

    The Following Items are from Various Sources

    Author’s Guild Sues Google
    The Authors Guild, a group that represents 8000 US authors, filed a class action lawsuit against Google Inc. in an attempt to ask for damages and an injunction that will prevent the company from continuing their very ambitious digitization project which began in earnest around one year ago.

  6. Inter-Alia

    The Gettysburg PowerPoint Presentation 11/19/1863
    The Gettysburg Address, reinterpreted in Microsoft Powerpoint. This garish presentation is replete with meaningless graphs, mind-numbing bullet points, and a list of “Key Objectives.” From a computer scientist with a sense of humor. (From Librarian’s Index to the Internet)
    Remember … friends don’t let friends use PowerPoint …