Sci-Tech Library Newsletter
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- And the Winner is…: Will NSF win its first Webby?
- Café Scientifique…for those in the DC area: This month in DC … but still hosted by NSF.
- Windows Live Academic: A search alternative to Google Scholar…
- Science Policy
- Around DC and on the Net
- New E-Books and Reports
- Interesting Websites and News from the Internet: BBC’s Planet Earth, MuslimHeritage.com, LabLit.com: The Culture of Science in Fiction & Fact; Biological Sciences: AmphibiaWeb, The Deadly Virus: The Influenza Epidemic of 1918, Squid, Darwin; Computer and Information Science: IT Conversations, Virtual Vaudeville, ACL Anthology: A Digital Archive of Research Papers in Computational Linguistics; Education and Human Resources: Blue Planet Games; Engineering: How Products Are Made, NOVA: “The Great Robot Race”; Geosciences: Fossil Evidence, Dimming the Sun, Perfect Disaster, 100 Years Since the Great Quake; Mathematical and Physical Sciences: “Voyage to the Mystery Moon”, ESA Science & Technology: Venus Express; Polar Programs: Ice Breaker; Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences: Pompeii: Stories from an Eruption, Economic History Services, Anansi, Tekoma, and the Cow’s Belly Folktale, The Berkeley Roundtable on the International Economy …and more… plus news items from Edupage
- Inter Alia
And the Winner is…
“I’m happy to report that the NSF external web site (an OLPA/DAS collaboration) is a finalist in the government category for the 10th Annual Webby Awards. This best-of-the-web competition, often called the “Oscars of the Internet,” drew more than 5,500 entries. Five nominees were named in each of about 65 categories on Tuesday.
The Webby Awards are presented by the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences.
NSF contractor S2N Media, one of our partners in redesigning our web presence, nominated the NSF site for a Webby. Members of the Web Implementation Group (WIG), Web Advisory Group (WAG), OIRM and OLPA worked closely with S2N and others in that extraordinary effort. Our site reflects our hard work, imagination and dedication to informing the research community and the public about NSF. Now we have one more thing to celebrate.
But before the celebration begins, there’s one thing we should do.
As a Webby Award nominee, NSF is also eligible to win a People’s Voice Award. Please visit the Webby’s People’s Voice voting site and vote for NSF. You will have to register in order to vote. Voting for the People’s Voice award ends at midnight on May 5.
Winners of the Webby and People’s Voice awards will be announced on May 9 and presented at a ceremony in New York City on June 12.
The Webbys are well covered by the news media. Mainstream and Web outlets (including the San Francisco Chronicle, Philadelphia Inquirer and MarketWatch’s Internet Daily) reported on the nominations. Last year, CNN, BBC and Fox News aired segments of the ceremony.
The Webby Awards give us an unparalleled opportunity to garner attention for NSF and the work we do. Watch for more information on how to help us get the word out. (From Mary Lou Higgs)
It was a hit! Standing room only! If you missed the first DC area Café Scientifique, you really missed something. However, it is not too late. Another Café Scientifique is coming up soon. Please join us at The Top of the Hill (aka Pour House), 319 Pennsylvania Ave. SE on Tues., May 2, 6:00–8:00pm for good food, drink, and a little lighthearted conversation about … oh, say, our shared Martian beginnings?
Stay tuned for more details … or join the DC area Café Scientifique e-mail list. To subscribe to the cafesci list, simply send an email message to “firstname.lastname@example.org”. In the text of your message, put the phrase “subscribe cafesci”. Do not add a signature to your message.
If you don’t live in the Washington, DC area, there are Café Scientifiques sprouting up all across the world. A place where for the price of a beer or a cup of coffee you can get a stimulating evening of science discussion … Go to the Café Scientifique website. Or start up a Café Scientifique in your own community!
Windows Live Academic
Microsoft’s Windows Live Academic Beta
Available in beta version is Windows Live Academic, a new competitor to Google Scholar. “We currently index content related to computer science, physics, electrical engineering, and related subject areas. Academic search enables you to search for peer reviewed journal articles contained in journal publisher portals and on the web in locations like citeseer.” Included are journal articles, preprint archives, conference proceedings, etc. For a list of the journal sources, check Content Sources (Such a list is something Google Scholar does NOT provide for their service).
The results interface is very different from a standard search engine results page. These features are offered:
- Slider bar: This allows you to expand or contract the amount of information contained in the search result
- Preview pane: This pane allows you to obtain more information on the result that you are hovering over with your mouse on the results pane
- Abstract: one of the options in the preview pane — choosing this option will allow you to see the abstract of the article that you are hovering over with your mouse on the results pane
- BibTeX/EndNote: citation options in the preview pane — choosing this option will allow you to see the formatted citation (BibTeX or EndNote format) on the preview pane for the search result that you are hovering over with your mouse on the results pane
- Search result: the actual search result; this includes links to the full text of the paper, link to search the web for that paper and potentially links that allow you to search your library for access to the full text from their subscription
- Sort by options: this drop down menu allows you to sort the search results by author of paper, journal, conference, date published or relevance
Relevancy is determined by two factors:
- Quality of match of the search term with the content of the paper
- Authoritativeness of the paper
However, if a reliable method of citation ranking is developed, that may be added as a relevance factor at a later date.
What I don’t find is any advanced search screen. Search help is not available from the search page, but is from the results page, which seems a bit odd. However not when you read the search help and discover that it really isn’t talking about searching at all … Does this database do phrase searching? What Boolean operators does it use? Nor do I find information about what parts of the article are being searched. Google Scholar searches full text, regardless of whether you actually have access to that full text. I suspect that Windows Live Academic does not search full text, since I had little luck searching on the phrase “funded by the National Science Foundation” or variants of the funding attribution statement, something I can do with Google Scholar.
Not everything advertised by Windows Live Academic is really true at this point — Gary Price from ResourceShelf points out the following: “Confusing? We’ve seen several articles quoting MS officials saying that material comes only from free and fee-based peer-reviewed journals. Note this banner from a results page (are we interpreting it incorrectly)? However, documentation also points out (see the home page) that material also comes from repositories like ArXiv.org with more repositories on the way. For example, note the citation in this screen cap. It doesn’t list a journal and the article itself sits on a server at San Jose State. It’s also not a peer-reviewed article. We have NO problem at all with this type of content being included, but MS needs to be clearer about what is and is not available. Also confusing is that many articles are not available without a site license or fee. Articles in this category should have a notation that only the abstract is available for free. We ran a search for the term Ethernet and then sorted to see ‘Conference’ results. However, many of the results we reviewed were not from conference proceedings.”
Many questions are as yet unanswered. How often is the database updated? How much of each journal, and what time range, is covered? What other sources are covered? When will other subject areas and features be available?
Still, when all is said and done, this cannot help but be a valuable search tool, and it is just in its infancy.
New Tools for Science Policy: Theory & Method
“As incredible as it may seem, science policy has few useful theories and no rigorous methods for assessing and improving the societal value of research. Public investments in science are almost always justified on the basis of desired social outcomes, yet we cannot even begin to answer questions about why one particular type or level of investment might be better than another for achieving a particular outcome. We cannot, that is, make even a rudimentary stab at determining whether our current research portfolio is anywhere close to optimal in terms of achieving the outcomes that society expects from it.”
Here is a collection of papers from the members of The Consortium for Science, Policy, and Outcomes.
Senate Commerce to Hold Hearing on Fostering Innovation in Math and Science Education
The Senate Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Technology, Innovation, and Competitiveness has scheduled a hearing on Fostering Innovation in Math and Science Education for Wednesday, April 26 at 10:00 am. This hearing will focus on the importance of science and mathematics education from kindergarten through graduate school in fueling future developments in the 21st Century’s high-tech innovation economy. Witnesses and hearing room location will be announced when available. Check the website for additional information and a webcast. (From IEEE-USA Eye on Congress)
USPTO Releases List of Top 13 Universities Receiving Most Patents in 2005
For the 12th consecutive year, the University of California tops all universities for the most patents for inventions, according to a list recently released by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The preliminary list reveals the top 13 U.S. universities receiving the most utility patents during calendar year 2005. All campuses are included in each school’s total.
While the University of California’s 390 patents in 2005 earned it top honors again, the figure reflects an 8 percent decline from the institution’s 424 total in 2004 and 11 percent less than 2003. The California Institute of Technology experienced an even greater drop in patent activity between 2004 and 2005, slipping 25 percent to third overall with 101 patents. Massachusetts Institute of Technology moved into second with 136, a 3 percent increase over 2004.
The University of Florida showed the most marked improvement with 64 patents in 2004, an increase of 56 percent for the number of patents awarded. All other institutions on the list posted increases as well:
- Stanford University, 90 patents in 2005 (20 percent increase)
- University of Wisconsin, 77 (20 percent increase)
- University of Michigan, 71 (11 percent increase)
- Columbia University, 57 (10 percent increase)
- Georgia Institute of Technology, 43 (16 percent increase)
- University of Pennsylvania, 43 (34 percent increase)
- Cornell University, 41 (2 percent increase)
Declines in 2005 patent activity among the top schools occurred at the University of Texas with 90 patents (11 percent decrease from 2004) and Johns Hopkins University with 71 (24 percent decrease from 2004). The University of Illinois fell off the list from 2004, posting 58 patents in 2004 but apparently less than 41 in 2005 — the lowest figure on the Patent Office list for 2005. (From IEEE-USA Eye on Washington)
Industrial R&D Intensity by State: 2003
Using statistics from the National Science Foundation’s report Science & Engineering Indicators 2006, the non-profit SSTI, has prepared a table presenting 2003 state rankings for industrial R&D intensity — the ratio of industry R&D to gross state product (GSP).
The national average in industrial R&D intensity for 2003 was 1.81 percent. Among the 14 states that placed above the national average, Michigan held the highest rank at 4.24 percent followed by Washington (3.76 percent), Massachusetts (3.73 percent), Connecticut (3.35 percent) and California (3.28 percent). Conversely, Alaska ranked the lowest in the nation at 0.11 percent, with South Dakota (0.27 percent), Montana (0.25 percent), Louisiana (0.20 percent), and Wyoming (0.17 percent) rounding off the final five. (From IEEE-USA Eye on Washington)
Senate Climate Conference
Senate climate conference “is our starting point.” The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a standing-room-only, all-day climate conference on April 4 on key issues surrounding the structure of a greenhouse gas regulatory program. Committee Chairman Pete Domenici (R-NM) called the conference “our starting point” for a mandatory system. Domenici’s statements held true, as a consensus emerged among the vast majority of participants, including many from the electric industry and other industrial sectors, for a mandatory, economy-wide system that would take effect soon. (From AAAS Science and Technology in Congress)
Innovation: An Education Focus
“A number of bills designed to improve science education and increase U.S. competitiveness were introduced in March, and more are expected in the coming months. Although the bills address familiar themes — K–12 education, teacher training, college funding, and workforce preparation — each includes novel proposals.” (From AAAS Science and Technology in Congress)
Around DC and on the Net
Climate and Global Change Assessments 4/20
Thursday, April 20
Climate and Global Change Assessments
National Academies Building
2100 C St., N.W.
Symposium on Globalization of Innovation 4/21
Friday, April 21
Symposium on Globalization of Innovation
National Academies’ Keck Building
500 Fifth St., N.W.
National Academy of Sciences’ 143rd Annual Meeting 4/25–4/25
National Academies Building
2100 C St., N.W.
The Academy’s annual meeting will be held from April 22 to April 25 in Washington, DC. The following symposia held in conjunction with the annual meeting are open to the public and free of charge; register online to attend. The symposia will be held in the Auditorium of the National Academy of Sciences Building, located at 2100 C Street, NW. For more information, contact the Academy at NASemail@example.com or call 202.334.2444.
Monday, April 24 — Kavli Frontiers of Science: Robot Learning
Tuesday, April 25 — Legal/Forensic Evidence and Its Scientific Basis
Saving Grace — Resurrecting American History 4/26
Documentary film and discussion with:
- Alfonso Narvaez, architectural conservator
- Michael Raphael, 3D imaging engineer
- Mimi Sadler, historical architect
Wednesday, April 26, 6 – 8 p.m.
500 Fifth St NW, Room Keck 100
This event is held in conjunction with the exhibition Cheryl Goldsleger: utopia
On Wednesday, April 26, the National Academy of Sciences will feature the DC premier of Saving Grace: Resurrecting American History, a documentary produced by the Historic Richmond Foundation, that details how state-of-the-art imaging and sculpting technologies were employed to replicate the Richmond Theatre Fire Monument at Monumental Church, Richmond, Virginia. Project advisors Alfonso Narvaez, architectural conservator, Michael Raphael, 3D imaging engineer, and Mimi Sadler, historical architect, will lead a discussion after the screening.
“The Origin of Species: What do we really know?” 4/20
Thursday April 20, 2006,
Reception 5:15 PM,
Lecture and Discussion 6:00–8:00 PM,
sponsored by Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion (DoSER),
American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).
1200 New York Ave. NW, 2nd floor auditorium
Washington DC 20005 (1 block from Metro Center on blue/orange/red lines)
Anti-evolutionists sometimes argue that, although they can accept the occurrence of microevolution within species (such as the evolution of antibiotic resistance), they don’t see how the same set of rules could lead to new species or to the large differences seen between current organisms. Dr. Via will review current understanding of how the process of speciation by natural selection can occur, and will illustrate that there is little need to regard speciation as some type of special phenomenon that requires rules other than those of microevolution. Classical evolutionary models of speciation will be briefly summarized, and recent genetic findings about how reproductive isolation evolves will be discussed. She will conclude her talk by mentioning how results from evolutionary developmental biology may provide mechanisms for large morphological changes during evolution that seem hard to explain with “normal” mutation and natural selection.
Sara Via, Ph.D.,
Departments of Biology & Entomology,
University of Maryland College Park
Emmett Holman, Ph.D.,
Associate Professor of Philosophy,
George Mason University
RFF Seminar: Natural Disasters and Policymaking
On April 5th, speakers at this First Wednesday Seminar discussed historical and contemporary experiences with natural disasters ranging from the Mississippi Flood of 1927 to Hurricane Katrina. They also compared and contrasted approaches in the United States and in the Netherlands to the challenge of hydrology — its science, engineering, risk assessment, and public response.
Policy Leadership Forum Showcases Steve Specker on Electricity-Generation Technologies
On March 30, Dr. Steve Specker, president and CEO of Electric Power Research Institute, discussed electricity-generation technologies and investment decisions in light of ongoing efforts to curb emissions of greenhouse gases. Specker compared the costs of various options, including such technologies as wind, nuclear, biomass, pulverized coal, and gasification. He also addressed key uncertainties affecting near-term decisions on new electricity generation.
Audio of past DoSER lectures is now available online! AAAS DoSER brings scientists, ethicists, and theologians together in public lectures that increase understanding of the cultural context in which science operates. Now, the content of past lectures can be accessed online. Listen to lively discussions of a second genesis of life in our solar system, the evolution of biological complexity, solving Alzheimer’s disease, and other important topics from 2005 and 2004.
View a New Geometric Art Exhibit at AAAS
From 4 April to 16 June, acclaimed artist and geometry enthusiast Tony Robbin shows works influenced by space-time, the theory of relativity and hypercubes. See these intriguing works in the AAAS headquarters gallery in Washington, D.C., and read about the artist.
New E-Books and Reports
Status of Technology and Digitization in the Nation’s Museums and Libraries. Institute of Museum and Library Services, 2006.
Guidelines for Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research. NAP, 2006. (Fully downloadable pdf available)
Water, a Shared Responsibility: the Second World Water Development Report. UNESCO, 2006. (summary)
Calhoun, Karen. The Changing Nature of the Catalog and Its Integration with Other Discovery Tools. Library of Congress, 2006.
Measure By Measure: Advancing commercialisation, collaboration and coordination in Australia’s science industry: The strategic Plan of the Science Industry Action Agenda. Australian Dept. of Education, Science, and Training, 2006.
The Federal Networking and Information Technology Research and Development Program: Funding Issues and Activities. Report Number: IB10130, CRS Issue Brief, February 22, 2006
Zinth, Kyle. A Synthesis of Recommendations for Improving U.S. Science and Mathematics Education. Education Commission of the States, 2006.
Technology Transfer: Use of Federally Funded Research and Development. Report Number: IB85031, CRS Issue Brief, February 10, 2006
C4ISR for Future Naval Strike Groups (prepublication). NAP, 2006.
Preventing the Forward Contamination of Mars. NAP, 2006.
State and Federal Standards for Mobile Source Emissions (prepublication). NAP, 2006.
Science in School
“Science in School is a journal for teachers, scientists, and all stakeholders in European science teaching.”
Interesting Websites and News from the Internet
LabLit.com: The Culture of Science in Fiction & Fact
This site “is dedicated to real laboratory culture and to the portrayal and perceptions of that culture … in fiction, the media and across popular culture.” Features interviews, articles, a message board, and a list of novels (and other media) that depict “realistic scientists as central characters and portray fairly realistic scientific practice or concepts, typically taking place in a realistic — as opposed to speculative or future — world.“ Edited by a scientist. (From Librarian’s Index to the Internet) A varied and interesting website.
“This website is a community effort to provide an educational forum to present and discuss Muslim heritage” in the areas of science, technology, arts, and civilization. Find a timeline (0–2002), feature articles (on topics such as architecture, education, engineering, and law), material about Muslim scholars, and details about significant individuals, cities, institutions, discoveries, and monuments. From the Foundation for Science Technology and Civilization (FSTC), London. (From Librarian’s Index to the Internet)
BBC’s Planet Earth
This website has a lot of goodies on offer. You can get screensavers, wallpaper, video clips to watch or the an “Easy Edit Suite” (UK only) to make your own video postcard …
AmphibiaWeb [Real Player, Quick Time]
In a previous time, it was a bit more tedious and difficult to keep track of the world’s species, and international collaboration was less than instantaneous. This recent endeavor, presented by the Digital Library Project at Berkeley and a host of supporting organizations, aims to provide the general public and scientists with a place to retrieve information related to amphibian biology and conservation. Currently, AmphibiaWeb contains material on 1265 species, along with 1173 distribution maps, 3449 literature references, 140 sound files, and 7188 photographs. With all this information, it helps to have a well thought out search engine, and a finding aid is available here as well. The database can be searched by genus, species, vernacular name, family, order, country, reason for population decline, and so on. The more casual visitor will also want to visit the more general “About Amphibians” section, then glide on over to the “Calls and Video” area. Here, one can look and listen to a number of creatures, including the call of the Aplastodiscus leucopygius, a type of Brazilian tree frog which sounds a bit like the warning signal emitted by a service vehicle backing into a dock. [KMG] (From the Scout Report)
The Deadly Virus: The Influenza Epidemic of 1918 [pdf]
The history of human civilizations is rife with disastrous epidemics and plagues, a fact that is sometimes lost on modern-day pundits and commentators. Fortunately, the National Archives hasn’t forgotten about one of history’s more recent tragedies, namely the influenza epidemic of 1918. They recently created this engaging and fascinating collection of documents and photographs that offer a first-hand perspective on this epidemic. All told, the collection offered here contains several dozen primary source materials, including a directive from the Navy in order to educate sailors about the health risks of the disease and a photograph of Seattle police officers clad in protective face masks. One special feature of the site is that visitors can also order copies of the documents, if they are so inclined. Overall, this is a well-designed site that offers a glimpse of the American perspective on this rampant epidemic which eventually killed 20 million people across the world. [KMG] (From the Scout Report)
“Remember all those news stories about the giant squid? Of course you do, and maybe you were one of those types who couldn’t get enough. Today’s Pick brims over with more squid than you can possibly handle. Whether they’re attempting to attack and eat grown men, emitting an ‘eerie blue glow’ in Japan’s Toyama Bay, ruining vacations, or hauling huge pouches of eggs, the tentacled monsters seem to have us surrounded — and not just in the water. They’re appearing on squid T-shirts, knitted replicas, and even weirdly homoerotic paintings. So come join the cephalopod celebration, because by the looks of things, they’re our masters now.” (From Yahoo’s Picks of the Week)
“While many may know that Charles Darwin was quite happy to keep company with his notebooks and his telescopes, there are many more fascinating things to learn about this remarkable scientist on this engaging and visually appealing website created by the American Museum of Natural History. Designed to function as an online counterpart to a recent in situ exhibition, the site is divided into small sections that contain information on some of his activities, including his voyage on the HMS Beagle and his initial thoughts about a theory of natural selection. What is truly remarkable about this site are the audio and visual features that are woven seamlessly into the essays and photographs. Visitors can listen to a simulated soundscape from the HMS Beagle voyage, and then view a tortoise cam in another section (appropriately titled ‘Tortoise Cam’). [KMG]” (From the Scout Report)
Computer and Information Science
ACL Anthology: A Digital Archive of Research Papers in Computational Linguistics
More than 10,000 papers on computational linguistics from 1965-present. Publications come from journals, conferences, meetings, workshops, and research institutes. Papers are listed by year and source. (From InfoMine)
“For those who might see the words ‘IT Conversations’, and think: ‘Oh no. A website dedicated to conversations about IT’, think again. This delightful website started life in June 2003, under the careful direction of Doug Kaye and it currently contains dozens of compelling interviews, discussions, and heated debates with a number of fascinating individuals. The first-time visitor might want to begin by looking through some of the series listed on the homepage. Some of the themes addressed by these sessions include social innovation, technology development, and global security. Each interview can also be rated, so visitors may want to listen to some of the highest rated programs first, depending on their faith in such ratings. Of course, users may also wish to use the search engine offered here, as they can use this application to quickly locate different programs of interest. [KMG]” (From the Scout Report)
Virtual Vaudeville [Shockwave, QuickTime]
“Vaudeville lives and breathes again on this tremendously interesting website created with the support of the University of Georgia Research Foundation and the National Science Foundation. Utilizing a team of researchers and computer visualization experts, the project has created 3D simulation of a complete act by the vaudeville-era comedian Frank Bush. Of course, visitors should first watch this remarkable act, then proceed to other sections where they can learn about the technology used to develop this recreation, and of course, about the age of vaudeville itself. On the site, visitors can also learn about the ‘Live Performance Simulation System’, which is the prototype used to create this immersive experience. Given all of the fascinating material on the site, many visitors will want to make a few return visits to soak up the whole experience. [KMG]” (From the Scout Report)
Education and Human Resources
Blue Planet Games
Thirteen games — seven big challenges and six “Just for fun” games — brought to you by the BBC and designed to teach children about our planet. Games include:
- Life on the edge: You are Professor Newton Skylar. You miniaturise yourself and visit different zones along the coast — rocky shore, dunes and sandy beach.
- Dive to the Abyss: You have been selected to lead an important dive mission, in which you must explore the deep sea in a submersible.
- Open Ocean: You are a fish. If you want to survive, you need to adapt. Will you live long enough to be the very best?
- Webs of Life: Descend to the colourful world of corals beneath the waves. See how food chains work, forming complex food webs and energy pyramids.
and more …
NOVA: “The Great Robot Race”
Join NOVA for an exclusive backstage pass to the DARPA Grand Challenge — a raucous race for robotic, driverless vehicles sponsored by the Pentagon, which awards a $2 million purse to the winning team. Armed with artificial intelligence, laser-guided vision, GPS navigation, and 3-D mapping systems, the contenders are some of the world’s most advanced robots. Yet even their formidable technology and mechanical prowess may not be enough to overcome the grueling 130-mile course through Nevada’s desert terrain. From concept to construction to the final competition, “The Great Robot Race” delivers the absorbing inside story of clever engineers and their unyielding drive to create a champion, capturing the only aerial footage that exists of the Grand Challenge.
How Products Are Made
We love to tear things apart to see how they work. Trouble is, we often can’t get them back together, and there’s so much stuff we’ll never get our dirty mitts on — like an EKG machine, a nuclear submarine, or, well, a guillotine. However, today’s Pick goes a long way toward satisfying our curiosity by walking us through the assembly of hundreds of objects. Explore all seven extensive, searchable volumes here, covering items as diverse as the humble hot dog and the majestic concrete beam bridge. If you’ve ever been curious about how things really work, how they the heck they get made, or what exactly artificial blood is, simply point your mouse in the direction of this site. (From Yahoo’s Picks of the Week)
Super tornadoes. “Supercell” solar squalls. Megafloods. They sound like Jerry Bruckheimer’s next effects-drenched blockbusters. But dip into this Discovery Channel companion site and scare yourself silly with how real — and really nasty — Mother Nature can be. The site offers a severe weather tracker, a hazard quiz (“Would you survive?”), an interactive explanation of how we measure a twister’s strength, and spectacular videos. One clip traces the anatomy of a twister on a rampage. Another follows the formation of magnetic storms on the Sun’s surface, coolly illustrating how “coronal mass ejections” can wipe out airplane radar, stir up radiation storms, and spark blackouts throughout power grids. How can they be so calm? And who needs sci-fi flicks when we’ve got all of this barreling toward us? (From Yahoo’s Picks of the Week)
100 Years Since the Great Quake
This April 18 marks one hundred years since the great San Francisco earthquake and fire of 1906, an event that virtually leveled the City by the Bay-and set the stage for its amazing growth in the 20th century. Not surprisingly, the Exploratorium has a great website on earthquakes …
Dimming the Sun
“‘Dimming the Sun’ investigates the discovery that the sunlight reaching Earth has been growing dimmer, which may seem surprising given all the international concern over global warming. At first glance, less sunlight might hardly seem to matter when our planet is stewing in greenhouse gases. But the discovery of global dimming has led several scientists to revise their models of the climate and how fast it’s changing. According to one recent and highly controversial model, the worst-case warming scenario could be worse than anyone has predicted. ‘Dimming the Sun’ unravels this baffling climate conundrum and the implications for Earth’s future.” (From NOVA)
The fossil record provides snapshots of the past that, when assembled, illustrate a panorama of evolutionary change over the past four billion years. Learn the questions that may be answered by fossil evidence. A plain vanilla website, but very well organized, succinct and interesting. Includes lesson plan materials.
Mathematical and Physical Sciences
“Voyage to the Mystery Moon”
“Chronicling a bold voyage of discovery — the Cassini/Huygens mission to Saturn and its enigmatic moon Titan — NOVA’s ‘Voyage to the Mystery Moon’ delivers striking images of these fascinating planetary bodies nearly a billion miles from Earth. Saturn’s broad rings hold myriad mysteries, and Titan, whose soupy atmosphere is similar to the one that enshrouded our planet billions of years ago, may hold clues to the origins of life. In hopes of answering some long-standing astrophysical questions, teams from NASA and the European Space Agency gamble years of effort to both ease the Cassini spacecraft into a workable orbit around Saturn and land the Huygens probe on Titan’s never-before-seen surface.” (From NOVA)
ESA Science & Technology: Venus Express
“Background and updates about this 2005–2006 European Space Agency (ESA) mission to Venus ‘to study the atmosphere, the plasma environment, and the surface of Venus in great detail.’ In addition to fact sheets and status reports, the site features images and video clips, a 3-D model of the Venus Express spacecraft, and a glossary. From the European Space Agency.” (From Librarian’s Index to the Internet)
Your challenge: To investigate the Antarctic and discover the natural forces that drive the poles. You will be sent south aboard the icebreaker ship, the Ice Queen, to gather facts about the icy Southern Ocean. Brought to you by BBC Blue Planet.
Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences
Pompeii: Stories from an Eruption
The story of the explosion and the subsequent archaeological digs in the area is the focus on this interactive online exhibit created by the Field Museum. A good place to start is the interactive timeline which allows users to move through the events of that fateful day to learn about the progression of the volcanic activity and the reaction by local residents. (From Blue Web’N)
The Berkeley Roundtable on the International Economy [pdf]
Created in 1982, The Berkeley Roundtable on the International Economy (BRIE) is an interdisciplinary research project that focuses on “…international economic competition and the development and application of advanced technologies”. Moving between the worlds of the private sector to interactions with fellow scholars and policymakers, BRIE has created a number of thought-provoking documents for the web-browsing public and placed them on this site. Visitors who require a bit more background material may want to first visit the “About BRIE” area which includes information on their objectives and research mission. After taking a look at the materials there, interested parties should proceed to the “Publications” area, which contains a very nice working papers area. Here visitors can download such intriguing titles as “Transforming Politics in a Digital Era” and “Boom Boxes: Shipping Containers and Terrorists”. [KMG] (From the Scout Report)
Economic History Services
“Despite its reputation as ‘the dismal science’, economics continues to attract new scholars in great numbers every year, and a number of websites provide high-quality materials for those interested in the subject. The Economic History Services website began life in 1994 as a mere discussion list, and since then has grown to include numerous resources that include book reviews, a collection of course syllabi, a directory of economic historians, along with the ever-popular ‘How Much is That?’ service. The ‘How Much is That?’ area is quite useful, as visitors can use it to determine historical prices for goods and services, interest rates, wage rates, and inflation rates. Budding economic historians will want to check out the ‘Ask The Professor’ feature, which allows users to submit queries related to the subject. The section also contains an archive of answered questions, which include such enigmas as ‘Is deflation bad for the economy?’ The site also includes a calendar of events for persons interested in learning about upcoming lectures, conferences, workshops, and the like. [KMG]” (From the Scout Report)
Anansi, Tekoma, and the Cow’s Belly Folktale
A folktale collected in 1923 in the Virgin Islands, rendered in both standard English and Dutch Creole, both written and spoken. You can switch between listening in one language to the other by movement of your mouse.
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MIT RESEARCHERS BUILD MICRO BATTERIES
A team of researchers led by a group at MIT have put viruses — the biological kind — to work in the manufacture of nanowires, which the researchers said can be used to make extremely small batteries. The project involved modifying the genes of the virus such that its outer surface would bind to certain metal ions. Researchers then bred the virus in a cobalt chloride solution, which resulted in the production of cobalt nanowires just 6 nanometers wide by 880 nanometers long. The wires, which also included small amounts of gold so they could adequately transmit electricity, were then used as positive electrodes for batteries. The researchers hope that with this technology they can create batteries as small as a grain of rice.
ZDNet, 6 April 2006 (via Edupage)
U.K. TO DEVELOP EUROPE’S FASTEST SUPERCOMPUTER
The British government is investing 52 million British pounds in a new supercomputer that will replace two other high-speed systems, one at the University of Manchester and the other run by a consortium led by the University of Edinburgh. The new computer, known as the High-End Computing Terascale Resource (Hector), will be capable of 100 teraflops of computing speed, a far cry from the 280 teraflops of IBM’s Blue Gene/L installation at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California but nonetheless fast enough to top the list of supercomputer speeds in Europe. The system at the University of Manchester will be decommissioned this year; the one run by the University of Edinburgh will operate until December 2008. Science Minister Lord Sainsbury said the new system is needed because current systems are reaching their capacity. Jennifer Houghton, project manager of Hector, said one of the challenges of the new system will be designing programs that can fully exploit its potential.
BBC, 2 April 2006 (via Edupage)
PRACTICING MEDICINE ON ROBOTS
Computerized mannequins are finding a home in medical training programs in an effort “to engineer out some of the errors,” according to Paul Preston, an anesthesiologist at Kaiser Permanente. The errors he is referring to are the preventable medical mistakes that lead to 98,000 deaths annually, according to the National Academy of Sciences’s Institute of Medicine. Preston heads a training program for Kaiser hospitals where mannequins are used to simulate childbirth. The mannequins in the Kaiser program are made by Gaumard Scientific and can present trainees with a wide range of situations, ranging from fairly standard births to those complicated by various factors, some life-threatening. The mannequin gives birth to a plastic doll that simulates a real infant. It exhibits vital signs and can demonstrate oxygen deficiency and a number of other conditions that affect newborns.
Wired News, 16 April 2006 (via Edupage)
MICROSOFT DEBUTS ACADEMIC SEARCH SERVICE
Microsoft has introduced a new service called Windows Live Academic Search to compete directly with Google’s similar service, Google Scholar. Danielle Tiedt, general manager of content acquisition for Microsoft, noted that the academic search market exceeds the market for nonacademic users by a factor of six, and some analysts have predicted that the academic search market will grow to $10 billion by 2010. Microsoft’s new service was launched with limited content — only resources from computer science, electrical engineering, and physics are included because these fields provide “the most highly structured metadata,” according to Tiedt. Microsoft has partnered with a number of leading academic organizations and publishers and plans to add to the content included in the service. Tiedt also said the new service fits with Microsoft’s efforts to cultivate relationships with academics generally.
Chronicle of Higher Education, 12 April 2006 (sub. req’d) (via Edupage)
INITIATIVE AIMS TO HELP FIND TRUSTWORTHY INFORMATION ONLINE
A new Web site being developed by researchers at Syracuse University and the University of Washington (UW) will provide users with tools and tips for separating good online information from the vast amounts of unreliable material. R. David Lankes, associate professor of information studies at Syracuse, and Michael Eisenberg, professor in the Information School at UW, are codirectors of the Credibility Commons, which is funded by a $250,000 grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Lankes said that many users assess the credibility of online information based on what a site looks like or whether it tells users what they want to hear. The Credibility Commons will gather computer programs — written by others and by the organizers of the new site — that can help users find credible information on the Web. The site will also solicit feedback from users for how best to locate reliable, accurate information. The tools developed by the Credibility Commons will be available as open source applications, which users may download and modify provided they share those changes with the site.
Chronicle of Higher Education, 29 March 2006 (sub. req’d) (via Edupage)
MIT ILABS EXPAND ACCESS TO AFRICAN UNIVERSITIES
A program at MIT that offers remote access to instrumentation in its labs has grown to include universities in Africa. The iLab initiative began in 1998 when Jesus del Alamo, professor of electrical engineering and computer science, started developing tools that allow users to prepare experiments separate from lab equipment and then submit their tests to the equipment. In this way, experiments that take 20 minutes to set up but only 10 seconds to run, for example, only occupy the lab equipment for 10 seconds. As a result of del Alamo’s work, MIT’s lab resources became available to students working from dorms and to users in other countries. A grant from the Carnegie Corporation has led to the expansion of the program to several universities in Africa, which suffer from very high costs for Internet access. The iLabs model requires researchers to be connected to — and paying for — the Internet only while data is being transferred, not during the set up of their tests. Organizers of the project hope that it can serve as a model for other institutions. Steven Lerman, director of MIT’s Center for Educational Computing Initiatives, described a scenario in which institutions would purchase unique laboratory equipment, rather than buying what another school already has, and share access to the various unique resources.
Inside Higher Ed, 24 March 2006 (via Edupage)
GEORGIA RESEARCHERS DEVELOP HYBRID NETWORK
Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology are developing a network technology that promises increased access to high-speed Internet service. The technology would carry both wired and wireless signals on the same fiber-optic cable, allowing both kinds of service in facilities such as conference centers and offices with just one set of wiring. The signal would be split to accommodate connections through wall outlets as well as through wireless access points. Users could connect through either channel and achieve access speeds of up to 2.5 Gbps. The network would also allow so-called wave division multiplexing, which would divide the connection into as many as 32 channels, each capable of the same 2.5 Gbps speed.
TechWorld, 24 March 2006 (via Edupage)
CHINA LOOKS TO HP FOR GRID
The government of China has recruited HP to help it build and develop the ChinaGrid, which will be used by thousands of researchers in the country as well as more than 290 million Chinese college students. The facility that houses the grid opened in late February, and researchers from HP Labs and from the ChinaGrid are working on technologies to support the grid, including a monitoring system to minimize human intervention and tools to increase security of the grid. When finished, the grid is expected to be one of the most powerful in the world, with a capacity of 15 teraflops of computing power. The grid will be used for a language-instruction program at a university in Hong Kong, for various bioinformatics applications, and to support a videoconferencing system. The grid is overseen by the China Ministry of Education.
Yahoo, 6 March 2006 (via Edupage)
GOOGLE, GRADUATE STUDENT DEVISE NEW SEARCH
Google is working to develop a new approach to Web searching that displays not just the topic searched but resources for related topics. The approach is the brainchild of Ori Allon, a doctoral student at the University of New South Wales. In describing his idea, known as the Orion search engine, Allon said a search for the term “American Revolution,” for example, would return Web pages with that phrase as well as Web resources on terms such as “American history,” “George Washington,” and “Declaration of Independence.” “The results to the query are displayed immediately in the form of expanded text extracts,” Allon said, “giving you the relevant information without having to go to the Web site.” A spokesperson from the University of New South Wales noted that Google has hired Allon, making him an employee of the company, but that the search technology he is working on “is still a university project.”
CNET, 10 April 2006 (via Edupage)
IBM ADDS SECURITY TO HARDWARE
IBM has developed technology that adds hardware-level encryption to data on a range of electronic devices. Researchers at the company said that the technology, called Secure Blue, encrypts and decrypts data as it passes through a processor. Data are encrypted in RAM, as well, resulting in a high level of security for devices such as personal computers, cell phones, digital media players, and electronic organizers. The flip side to the protection that Secure Blue provides to users is a new level of control offered to other owners of content, such as media companies. Digital rights management (DRM), which dictates how content may be used, could be bolstered by IBM’s new technology, allowing music producers, for example, another tool to restrict unauthorized usage of their intellectual property. Secure Blue has been demonstrated with IBM’s PowerPC processor and is said to be compatible with processors from Intel and Advanced Micro Devices, though IBM said it is not currently in talks with those companies to add the technology to their chips.
ZDNet, 9 April 2006 (via Edupage)
LIBRARY GROUP WINS DISPUTE WITH FBI
Following a recent change in terms of the Patriot Act, federal authorities said they will end their efforts to prevent a library organization from identifying itself as a part of an antiterrorism investigation. Last year, the FBI sent a so-called national security letter to the Library Connection, an organization of 26 libraries in Connecticut, seeking patron records and e-mail messages. As it was originally enacted, the Patriot Act authorized the letters and forbade recipients from disclosing that they had been sent the letter. The group protested, saying the gag order violated their First Amendment rights, and last September a federal judge agreed. Ironically, it was during those proceedings that the government inadvertently identified the group in question as the Library Connection when attorneys for the government filed court documents with the group’s name not redacted. Congress has since revised the Patriot Act, which now grants the government discretion to allow some recipients of national security letters to identify themselves. Kevin O’Connor, the United States attorney in Connecticut, said that in light of the changed legislation, the government would end its appeal of the decision to allow the Library Connection to come forward.
New York Times, 13 April 2006 (registration req’d)(via Edupage)
PROGRAMMING CONTEST CROWNS RUSSIAN STUDENTS
A team of students from Saratov State University in Russia won the 2006 Association for Computing Machinery’s International Collegiate Programming Contest. Working in teams of three, contestants had five hours to answer as many of 10 complex problems as possible. The winning team, which correctly answered six of the problems, won a $10,000 scholarship and computer equipment from IBM, sponsor of the event. Runners-up were from the University of Twente in the Netherlands, Altai State Technical University in Russia, and Jagiellonian University of Krakow, Poland. Doug Heintzman, director of IBM’s Lotus division, noted that over the years, IBM has hired 80 winners of the contest. The questions in the contest were similar to problems that programmers would typically take months to puzzle out. Bill Poucher, executive director of the contest, described the difficulty of the contest by asking, “When was the last time you heard someone say ‘I need a piece of software in 10 minutes’?”
Associated Press, 13 April 2006 (via Edupage)
EFF LISTS CONSEQUENCES OF DMCA
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has issued a report detailing what it said are the unintended effects of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The law was enacted seven years ago to address intellectual property issues that arose with the development of the Internet and other technologies. Among other provisions, the law includes a prohibition on circumventing antipiracy measures, even if such circumvention was done for reasons that reasonable people would see as legitimate, according to the EFF. In a number of cases, the DMCA has been invoked to suppress information obtained by researchers about security weaknesses. The EFF’s report said that the law has been used not so much to limit piracy as to “threaten and sue legitimate consumers, scientists, publishers, and competitors.” The Cato Institute recently released a report on the DMCA with similar findings.
Internet News, 14 April 2006 (via Edupage)
The following item(s) are from sources other than Edupage
USACM ADDS A BALANCED VOICE TO THE COPYRIGHT WARS
The battles over copyright policy in Washington D.C. are nothing new, but the digitizing of copyrighted works and the ability to quickly and widely distribute protected works has raised the stakes on this debate. A large part of this debate, and ultimately the most interesting to USACM, is that those holding copyrighted works are increasingly turning toward technology to protect their works in the digital age. Often called “Digital Rights Management,” these technologies present two interesting questions to policy makers. One, how does technology help or undermine existing copyright policies? Two, if technologies employed in the marketplace cannot adequately protect works or undermine existing fair uses of works, what role should policymakers have in steeping into this area and mandating how technology should perform?
To help guide policymakers thinking on this subject, USACM has adopted six principles for Digital Rights Management (DRM) policy: competition, copyright balance, consumer protection, privacy and consent, research and public discourse, and targeted policies. Each is too long to summarize in the newsletter; the entire statement can be found at USACM Policy Recommendations on Digital Rights Management. The statement reflects USACM’s belief that DRM systems have a role in protecting against wide-spread infringement; however, it also reflects the community’s belief that long-standing legal uses of copyrighted works and consumer rights should be respect by policymakers wrestling with this issue.
Clearly theses principles can be used to educate Congress on at least four bills it is currently reviewing. First, the so-called “analog hole” bill, which creates a federal technology mandate that prevents transferring digital content to analog and back to digital without whatever DRM is attached to the original work. Second, the “broadcast flag” bill (all we have is a draft proposal on this), which would mandate that digital receivers recognize a flag embedded in video signals with DRM. Third, the “audio flag” bill, which is similar to the broadcast flag bill but deals with digital audio broadcasts. Fourth, Representative Boucher’s (D-VA) Digital Media Consumers’ Rights Act of 2005, which among other things amends the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) to allow for research into technological protection measures and circumvention of technology copy protection for “fair use” purposes, both of which are illegal today. USACM will now look to educate policymakers on how the principles below apply to their efforts. (From USACM Washington Upate)
Bytes by the Quintillion For Today and Tomorrow
“Engineers and information specialists from government, industry and academia agreed at a National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) workshop that immediate action is needed to keep vast amounts of digital knowledge from disappearing into cyberspace or becoming in 200, or even 20 years, as incomprehensible as the markings on Babylonian cuneiform tablets…According to estimates offered at the conference, the world churns out new digital information equivalent to the entire collection of the U.S. Library of Congress every 15 minutes. Such a proliferation of information in digital format, occurring almost 100 times a day, adds up to approximately five exabytes (five quintillion bytes or five billion gigabytes) a year.”
- See Also: Presentations From the NIST Workshop, Long Term Knowledge Retention (LTKR): Archival and Representation Standards, are available.
- See Also: The Inductive Future: Thoughts on Information Usage in 2035 (via AIIM E-DOC), A column by AIIM Fellow and futurist, Thornton May.
Wander through the galleries of Finnish artist Harri Kallio’s work and find yourself eyeball-to-eyeball with long-extinct birds or delicate, pink-tinged moths. In “The Dodo and Mauritius Island, Imaginary Encounters,” Kallio creates two life-size models of the ancient, flightless bird, and then sets the duo loose in the Dodo’s real, one-time haunt. He poses his creations milling in the woods, stuffing their beaks with fruit, and canoodling by the stream. You can practically hear their squawking and flapping in these lush, weird photos. In another gallery, Kallio creates delicate, creepy, greatly magnified portraits of butterflies and moths. Looking through the creatures’ “facial expressions and emotions,” it’s tempting to think that this is how aliens might look. (From Yahoo’s Picks of the Week)