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Not a lot of news this week, folks, just some very interesting websites!
The most recent HMS Beagle has a delightful article that will be much appreciated by my own patrons. It begins with: “Editor's Note: The following is a top-secret transcript of an actual conversation between a scientific review administrator (SRA) and a potential recruit to join a study section.” Enjoy!
PubMed Central [.pdf]
After almost a year of sometimes contentious debate, the National Institutes of Health has officially opened PubMed Central, a free online archive of full-text, peer-reviewed research papers in the life sciences. While the majority of the major scientific publishers have declined to participate, a number of respected journals will be featured at the site. The first of these are Molecular Biology of the Cell and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. At the time of writing, only the November 1, 1999 issue of Molecular Biology of the Cell was available. Users can view abstracts or the full text of over 30 articles in HTML or .pdf format. The full texts of issues for both journals from 1999 and 1998 are in preparation. Forthcoming journals include Biochemical Journal, Canadian Medical Association Journal, Frontiers in Bioscience, and five journals from BioMed Central. Background and participation information are available at the site. While current offerings at the site are modest, PubMed Central promises to become a major resource for scholars and professionals in the life sciences. [MD] (From the Scout Report) NOTE: Links to these full text articles will soon be available from the PubMed database.
The following Materials Chemistry titles have been fully restored on Chemweb (Free registration required):
American Mathematical Society: Electronic Research Announcements
Journal overview: This electronic-only journal publishes research announcements (up to about 10 journal pages) of significant advances in all branches of mathematics. A research announcement should be designed to communicate its contents to a broad mathematical audience and should meet high standards for clarity as well as mathematical content. Papers with complete proofs may be published in exceptional cases if the results are substantial enough to meet the criteria. All papers are reviewed, and the entire editorial board must approve the acceptance of any paper.
Nukleonika is published quarterly since 45 years. This international journal publishes important original, applied and fundamental, experimental and theoretical top quality papers relevant to the major areas of nuclear sciences, presenting the activities of institutes for nuclear research all over the world. The fields of research covered by Nukleonika are mainly: radiochemistry, radiation measurements, application of radiation and radionuclides in any branch of science and technology, chemistry of f-block elements, radiation chemistry, radiation physics, activation analysis, nuclear medicine, radiobiology, radiation safety, nuclear industrial electronics, environmental protection, radiation environmental conservation technologies, radioactive waste disposal, nuclear techniques in material and process engineering, radioisotope diagnostic methods of engineering objects, nuclear reactors and nuclear power, reactor physics, nuclear safety, fuel cycle, reactor calculations, nuclear chemical engineering etc. It is the intention of the Editorial Board that Nukleonika edited in a new form may be one of the bridges being built to join research communities of the former east block with scientist of the rest of the world.
Contact: Production Editor: Mariola Piotrowska
Recently redesigned for its second anniversary, naturalSCIENCE offers original articles, news reports and briefs, book reviews, commentary, and interviews aimed at both scientists in other fields and scientifically informed members of the public at large. In addition, the site links to off-site stories and reports, as well as featuring a large number of categorized links for scientists and science-minded readers. While navigation at the site can be a little quirky in places, these users may find it an interesting source of news and dialogue. [MD] (From the Scout Report)
Pulse of the Planet
The online companion to the radio show of the same name, Pulse of the Planet is what the Earth sounds like. Each weekday, the show “provides its listeners with a two-minute sound portrait of Earth, tracking the rhythms of nature and culture worldwide and blending interviews and extraordinary natural sound.” Peruse the site's archive for the dangerous sounds of an ice cave, or the ancient sounds of the Gobi Desert, among other things. Also included: a monthly contest – try to recognize the mystery sound and win a nifty National Geographic t-shirt. (From Yahoo's Picks of the Week)
The DNA Learning Center at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory presents this profound, sometimes shocking look at the early 20th Century American eugenics movement – an erroneous, “scientific” effort to breed better humans based on Mendelian genetics and social Darwinism. The enthusiastic acceptance of eugenics theory resulted in racist marriage laws, restrictive immigration policies, and legally mandated sterilization of “undesirables.” Historical documents and lucid essays suggest parallels with our contemporary, feverishly-hyped genetic industry, recommending caution as we proceed. (From Yahoo's Picks of the Week)
Over the last ten years, photographer Sami Karjalainen has photographed 50 species of dragonfly in action and at rest on Finland's southern coast. The result: an exquisite gallery of true nature photography – no supplemental or artificial lighting, no special effects or immobilization of these dazzling creatures. The ballet of flying and foraging, the colors and gestures of mating and dating don't get any more beautiful than this. (From Yahoo's Picks of the Week)
Estuary Live!!! [RealVideo, ChatVideo, Java]
Intended for elementary, middle, and high school students, this electronic estuary excursion, Estuary Live!!!, will take place May 8-12, 2000. Free to participants (but please sign up in advance), the field trip will explore the Rachel Carson Site of the North Carolina National Estuarine Research Reserve, covering four islands and salt marshes off the North Carolina coast. The site features useful educational materials, including a photo-illustrated field guide (of the “ecology, habitats and specific plants and animals found in North Carolina's estuaries”); lesson plans (covering highschool biology, estuary habitats, species interactions, and adaptations and communities); and a series of related links. The interactive field trip will require a java-enabled browser, RealVideo (to see a moving image and hear sound), and/or Chatvideo, to see a moving image, ask questions of the naturalist leading the trip, and receive responses via a chat window. Note that ChatVideo requires Netscape 4.0 or better and will not work with AOL or Internet Explorer, and pages “look best” on a screen with resolution of 800x600. The Estuary Live!!! Website is provided by the North Carolina National Estuarine Research Reserve Program, and The Center for Science, Mathematics and Technology Education at East Carolina University. [LXP] (From the Scout Report)
Networks of Neurons, by Mike May
The latest edition of BioMedNet (free registration required) has an excellent article with links to websites on Neural Networks.
The Shrew (ist's) Site
This site aims to “provide public awareness of shrews, furnish enjoyable ‘shrewdness’ and to serve an educational purpose”. It has a good bibliography, photo gallery, facts and stories and project proposals. Amazingly the Shrew Dictionary gives “shrew” in 57 languages including Inuit, Kashmiri and Tamil. It also reminds us that one English dictionary definition is “A woman with a violent, scolding, or nagging temperament; ascold. (Middle English shrewe, villian, from Old English scrjawa, shrewmouse) … ”! (From New Scientist Planet Science)
Bird of the Week
Have you ever heard a Tree Swallow? No, not the scary trees in the Wizard of Oz. The Tree Swallow is the only swallow to make substantial use of seeds and berries, rather than insects. How do I know? The Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology told me so. And let me listen to the call of the Tree Swallow. Each week, they feature a new bird with sounds, great photos, and other great resources. Join the Classroom Feeder Watch or become a Citizen Science participant to help observe our fine, feathered friends. (From Blue Web'N)
Comparative Mammalian Brain Collections [QuickTime]
Located at the Department of Physiology at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, this site offers images and information from “one of the world's largest collection of well-preserved, sectioned and stained brains.” The site features photos of brains of over 100 different species of mammals, representing 17 mammalian orders. Users can browse the collection by common or scientific name; view serial sections of selected specimens (including human and chimpanzee), some of which are also available as QuickTime movies; read about the importance and history of the collections; and learn about brain evolution (this last section still under construction). Additional resources include a collection of related links and an internal search engine. [MD] (From the Scout Report)
Win a Trilobite Prize!
When I was a kid growing up on the shores of Lake Erie, finding a trilobite fossil in the gray shale was a wondrous event. With a background like that, you can't help but feel tied to these interesting little extinct creatures, so this website is as cool a find as the fossil was! This site has it all – graphics, glossaries, quizzes, FAQ, even a contest hidden somewhere among the pages … It is visually pleasing and nicely arranged. (Thanks to Netsurfer Science)
Planet Pals Earthzone
“Not so much an educator's resource (however, do visit the Parents and Teachers Page) as it is a child-oriented website to allow younger students (ages 7 through about 11 years) to navigate on their own. The subject matter is fairly wide-ranging, including astronomy, conservation of earth's natural resources, meteorology, environmental pollution, and planetary physics. There is a lot of mention of Earth Day 2000 and activities surrounding this annual activity. There are copious instructions for conducting many science-related activities in the classroom and on-line. This site's graphical presentation is very colorful and appealing to the youngster's eye, and the textual presentation tends to be lighthearted. However, the various subpages never stray very far from the subject matter, an attribute that skillfully offsets the ‘kiddie-carnival’ aspects of this commercial (yes, there are a few unobtrusive advertisements) website.” (From Websurfer's Biweekly Earth Science Review)
Hekla Erupts in Iceland
This site from NORDISK VULKANOLOGISK INSTITUT has photos, chronology, and additional information on the recent eruption of Hekla. For additional information, check the following sites:
Mount Mayon, one of the most active volcanoes in the Philippines, erupted on February 24, 2000, after lying dormant for eight months. The active volcano spewed lava, rocks, and ash repeatedly over the next three days. Volcanologists at the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology have warned of the likely possibility of bigger eruptions in the near future, with the greatest effects on the southeast and southwest sectors of the volcano. The volcano has already hurled molten boulders and 3,000-meter columns of ash into the air forcing an evacuation of some 50,000 people in a eight-kilometer radius around the crater. Volcanic debris estimated at 60 million metric tons are now lodged into the volcano's gullies. Heavy rainfall could cause more calamity in the form of mudflows. This week's In the News takes a closer look at the volcanic activity at Mount Mayon.
The first resource is a news item from the Manila Bulletin, the Philippines largest newspaper (1), discussing the recent blasts on the night of February 27th. The second release, from the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), contains information on the initial eruption on February 24th (2). Next, Discovery.com's Earth Alert page offers running accounts of eruptions on February 23rd through 25th (3). The fourth resource, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (4), contains a special Mayon Volcano bulletin through its Volcano Monitoring and Eruption Prediction Division. The Cascades Volcano Observatory (5) (described in the September 23, 1994 Scout Report offers a plethora of volcanological resources including online publications, links to volcano observatories around the world, and special alphabetically listed pages for volcanoes of the world. The Observatory also features a special page devoted to the Mayon Volcano (6). For those interested in further information, the Smithsonian Institution's Global Volcanism Program (7) holds volcano activity reports, a section on volcanoes of the world, volcano basic data, and links. Finally for a large, general volcano resource, The University of North Dakota's Volcano World (8) contains a little bit of everything. [KR] (From the Scout Report)
Greatest Engineering Achievements of the Twentieth Century
To celebrate the many life-changing technological achievements of the Twentieth Century, this site from the National Academy of Engineering was created in a collaboration with the American Association of Engineering Societies, National Engineers Week (Feb. 20-26, 2000), and others. The list contains the top 20 achievements with a history and a timeline of important landmarks for each accomplishment. [KR] (From the Scout Report)
The Civil Engineer's Mega Bookmark
Hosted by the Civil Engineering Library at Lund University (Sweden), this recently updated metasite boasts links to over 1,000 online resources of interest to civil engineers, many of them annotated. Resources are grouped in nine categories, including Research/ Education, Subject-Based Resources, Civil Engineering Journals, Organisations/ Institutes, and Discussion Forums, among others. The site also offers a guide to finding building codes, regulations, and standards in fifteen countries. Surprisingly, there is no internal search engine, but on the whole, the site is a well-organized and very useful resource for civil engineers and engineering librarians. [MD] (From the Scout Report)
Inventors and Inventions Theme Page
“This ‘Theme Page’ has links to two types of resources related to the study of inventors and inventions. Students and teachers will find curricular resources (information, content …) to help them learn about this topic. In addition, there are also links to instructional materials (lesson plans) which will help teachers provide instruction in this theme.” A few of the topics include:
New Polar Database – Polarbasen
The Polar database containing bibliographic information from the Danish Polar Center, the Department of Eskimology, University of Copenhagen and the Arctic Institute is now accessible on the Internet. It has a very nice search interface and is available in English and Danish.
Robotic Antarctic Meteorite Search: Antarctica 2000
Carnegie Mellon University's Field Robotics Center is responsible for sending the NOMAD robotic vehicle into the Antarctic to search for meteorites. “Nomad uses robotic technologies to search Antarctic areas, distinguish interesting rock types, and provide autonomous assessment of the terrestrial or extraterrestrial origin of each rock.” During the month of January, the robot found four meteorites. The site contains updates, photos of NOMAD and the meteorites, a technology section (which currently holds no information), a link to the Field Robotics Center's NOMAD Page, and perhaps of most interest to researchers, a technical publications section. [KR] (From the Scout Report) [Also check the website at Case Western Reserve]
Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM)
German Remote Sensing Data Center (DFD)
STS-99 Mission Status Reports
It now appears that the Space Shuttle Endeavour will be able to conserve enough fuel to complete its mission and create the world's most accurate topographic maps. With these sites, users can track the remaining days of the mission and view some samples of the extraordinary images being produced. At the SRTM homepage, users will find news updates, background information, some quick facts, related links, an overview of the mission's equipment, and a list of acronyms used at the site. The German Remote Sensing Data Center site features some of the latest images in standard and high resolution as well as related information. Finally, the STS-99 Mission Status Reports site contains the latest news from Mission Control. For more on the earth mapping mission, see the In the News column for this week's _Scout Report for Science & Engineering_. [MD] (From the Scout Report)
Deep Space Network Lithographs
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) built the Deep Space Network (DSN) of antennas to communicate with spacecraft exploring the solar system. “Deep Space Network-Communications” and “Deep Space Network-Radio Astronomy” are two new NASA lithographs featuring photographs of 70-meter antennas and a description of the DSN. The “Radio Astronomy” lithograph includes images of a galaxy made with a radio-frequency interferometer and Jupiter superimposed on radio maps of the invisible radiation belts. (From Net Happenings)
Beyond the Drake Equation
In 1961, astronomer Frank Drake proposed a method of estimating the number of civilizations in our Galaxy that could be detectable from Earth. Factors of the Drake equation include:
“This page includes a calculator, where you can try out your own educated guesses about the answers to each of the questions considered here, and see where your guesses take you. Popular values have already been entered in all of the boxes, but you can change any or all of them. Enter values as decimal digits, with or without a decimal point. Be careful; if you enter zero for any term in the Drake Equation, you are saying that we ourselves cannot exist.” (Care of Netsurfer Science
Solar Max 2000 [RealPlayer]
This new exhibit from the Exploratorium (last discussed in the August 6, 1999 _Scout Report_) is a content-rich examination of the upcoming “solar maximum.” The year 2000, it is believed, will see the highest degree of sunspot activity for the current solar cycle. The result may be geomagnetic storms that disrupt power grids, radio broadcasts, and satellites, as well as unusually vibrant displays of the Aurora Borealis and Aurora Australis (the Northern and Southern Lights). To follow these events and learn about the science behind them, most users will need look no further than this site, which offers links to news stories and daily reports from NASA, links to a large number of images, a Solar Max FAQ in text and video, classroom activities, a glossary, and links to upcoming solar missions and numerous other related resources. A Japanese language version of the site is forthcoming. [MD] (From the Scout Report)
“Chemistry Webzines – How to find the right news for you”
By John Buckingham and Jenny Drey in the most recent edition of Free Pint.
If you aren't familiar with the Alchemist, you are in for a treat!
“At last! A home page that looks as if it is designed by and for chemists rather than industrial managers or bureaucrats. This is the webzine of ChemWeb.com, the virtual community for chemists. How nice to see some pure chemistry detail as part of the well thought-out comment in some of the news stories. The news items on the opening page are a lively mixture of pure chemistry research advances, applied chemistry, and quirky ‘side-issue’ items.
Updated daily, each news item has hotlinks to related stories, websites and ChemWeb.com-wide search results. The conference diary is reasonably up-to-date, though not particularly extensive (although it does link in to the full ChemWeb.com Conference Diary which lists hundreds of chemistry events worldwide).
There is also a Conference Reporter, providing online updates direct from worldwide chemistry events, as well as a Job Exchange. The book reviews section contained some extremely well-written reviews by subject specialists.
If this site can be criticised, it is that it casts its net very widely outside chemistry, and in the search to stay lively, includes items of peripheral interest. It is a tricky balance to hit, but the writers give the strong impression that they are moving in the right directions.
The Alchemist is a pure webzine, not a marketing vehicle for a print product, and therefore has no reason to hold back any information from the reader. The news is updated daily, and it's all free.
Rating: Design B; Functionality A;. Topicality B; Quality of information B; Relevance to chemists A.”
A New State of Matter – CERN [QuickTime, AVI, RealPlayer]
“ A new Form of Nuclear Matter” – AIP
“'Little Bang' experiment boosts Big Bang theory” – CNN
“'New State of Matter' Recalls Big Bang” – Washington Post_
“New Matter Created in Lab” – Discovery.com News
“'Little Bang' creates cosmic soup” – BBC News
“Lab Hot on Trail of Big Bang Theory” – Yahoo! Daily News
Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC)
Scientists from 20 different countries working at CERN, the European Laboratory for Particle Physics, announced that, after years of work, they had created “a new state of matter.” In this new state of matter, quarks, the smallest known particles, roam freely instead of being bound up into more complex particles such as protons and neutrons. By smashing heavy lead ions at temperatures 100,000 times as high as those at the sun's center and at energy densities never before reached in laboratory experiments, the scientists claim they have created a form of matter, “quark-gluon” soup or plasma, that has not existed since a few millionths of a second after the Big Bang created the universe. Although the evidence is indirect, since the particles were measured after they returned to a confined state, many believe that this “Little Bang” verifies a key part of the Big Bang theory – that quarks and gluons existed in a free state before they joined to form the larger particles that make up the atom. CERN is winding down its current research, and the momentum for high-energy science research will transfer to the US, where a new facility in New York, the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC), is due to begin experiments later this year.
Users interested in learning more about this new discovery should start with the CERN Website, which offers a press release, photos, animations, an archived Webcast, scientific notes, and links to the individual experiments's homepages. The American Institute of Physics (AIP) has posted a short press release on the discovery, and a number of newspapers and online news services have reported in more depth. Finally, users may want to visit the RHIC homepage for a glimpse into the future possibilities of high-energy science. [MD] (From the Scout Report)
TalksPage features RealAudio scientific lectures with accompanying abstracts and slides. This site is maintained by Dr. Konstantin Kladko (Stanford, Department of Physics), Dr. Sergey Kravchenko (Northeastern University, Department of Physics), and Igor Mitkov (Northeastern University). The creators hope to provide a place where any scientist in the world can post their talk or presentation in audio format. The talks are delivered by researchers from well-known universities in areas of physics, chemistry, and math. A few titles include “2e or not 2e in Strongly Repulsive Electronic Systems in 2D?” and “Stabilizing Effects of Dispersion Management.” Also included here is a message board, a Hot Problems! section, links to RealAudio Science on the Web, and more. The lectures themselves may contain background static. [KR] (From the Scout Report)
Historical Nuclear Weapons Test Films [RealPlayer, .mpeg]
This site is the product of a recent joint effort between the US Department of Energy and Department of Defense to declassify films on the nuclear weapons program, place them on videotape, and make them publicly available. Taken as a whole, the films document the history of nuclear weapon development in the US, beginning with the first bomb tested at Trinity Site in southeastern New Mexico in July 1945. As the site notes, while portions of these films were previously released, this is the first time the films have ever been edited for declassification and public release. The films are grouped in five sections, with listings giving operation name date, length of film, and format (color or black and white). Clicking on an individual entry for a film brings up a two-paragraph description and short clips in .mpeg and RealPlayer format, the latter offering four connection speed choices. Video purchase information is provided at the site. [MD] (From the Scout Report)
PsycPORT.com – APA
Created a few months ago, but only recently completed, PsycPORT offers a substantial collection of psychology resources for professionals and interested users. Designed as a portal for psychology information, PsycPORT features breaking psychology news stories; information on forthcoming and current books; recent tables of contents, abstracts, and some full-text articles for related journals; PsycINFO Direct, a fee-based abstract database (free demo available); and access to PsychCrawler, the APA's psychology search engine (reviewed in the August 25, 1998 _Scout Report for Social Sciences_). [MD] (From the Scout Report)
Where Do Languages Come From?
The Exploratorium produced this series of exercises to demonstrate similarities and differences between words of several languages. Great for tying geography lessons into language arts curriculum. These activities, like Be a Word Historian, are created to be completed either online or offline. (From Blue Web'N)
Omaha Indian Music – LOC [RealPlayer]
The latest addition to the Library of Congress (LOC) American Memory Collection features traditional Omaha Indian music from the 1890s and 1980s. The former includes 44 wax cylinder recordings made by Francis La Flesche and Alice Cunningham Fletcher between 1895 and 1897. The latter includes 323 songs and speeches from the 1983 Omaha harvest celebration pow-wow, and 25 songs and speeches from the 1985 Hethu'shka Society concert at the Library of Congress. The site also offers interviews with members of the Omaha tribe, field notes and tape logs made by Center staff during the 1983 pow-wow, and close to 380 photographs from 1983 and 1985. Users can search the site by keyword; browse by music, photographs, spoken word, or events; or listen to the pow-wow audio in sequence. Photos are offered as thumbnails with links to larger images, while recordings are available in both RealPlayer and .wav formats with explanatory notes. The field notes and tape logs are accessed at the bottom of the main page. Additional resources at the site include a select bibliography, a map of the region, an album booklet, and related essays. [MD] (From the Scout Report)
Economic and Monetary Unions in the Past
Created by the history department at Leiden University in the Netherlands, Economic and Monetary Unions in the Past spans close to 300 years of history, highlighting seventeen economic and monetary unions from the United States 1776-1860 to the EMU. A comprehensive set of semi-annotated links has been prepared for each union, along with a set of symbols that describe and rate each source. [EM] (From the Scout Report)
Trillion Dollar Bet – NOVA
This Website accompanies the “Trillion Dollar Bet” episode of the popular PBS television series NOVA which aired on February 8, 2000. “Trillion Dollar Bet” explored the 1973 discovery of the Black-Scholes Formula, which allows one to determine the value of a call option at any given time. The formula “revolutionized modern finance … [and] led to the creation of a multi-trillion dollar industry.” The creators of the formula, Myron Scholes, Robert Merton, and Fischer Black, won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1997. The Website offers a pithy explanation of this complex formula, analysis of the world of online trading, and a “Traders' Lexicon.” A resources section of nicely annotated links and a short recommended bibliography round out the site. [EM] (From the Scout Report)
Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) Bibliography
This site is the result of a non-profit multinational volunteer effort to provide a free comprehensive online bibliography of the field of Human-Computer Interaction. Sources used include over 19,600 books and reports, journal articles, conference proceedings, and online publications. Each citation has complete bibliographic information, abstract, and Web link to the full-text version, if available. The complex search engine plus the scholarly nature of its content ensure that the HCI Bibliography will be more heavily used by members of the academic and technical communities, rather than HCI novices. Also includes Web links to related sites. – ad (From Librarian's Index to the Internet)
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CLINTON REQUESTS $2.3 BILLION FOR INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY PROGRAMS
President Clinton's proposed 2001 budget earmarks $2.3 billion for IT research and development, a 35 percent increase from last year's budget. The money would be divided among seven agencies, although the National Science Foundation (NSF) would get the lion's share of the funds, $740 million. The NSF says it will apportion $45 million for the Terascale Computing System program, an attempt to build a supercomputer that can do five trillion mathematical problems every second. NSF also wants to spend $33 million for information-security research, and would provide $11.2 million in scholarships for students who major in information security and then work for the federal government after graduation. The federal budget also increases research funding for NASA as well as the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. A spokesman for NASA says part of the proposed $230 million for the agency would be used to research alternatives to silicon chips, such as genetic material, for use in computers.
(Chronicle of Higher Education Online, 8 Feb 2000 via Edupage)
AS DISTANCE EDUCATION COMES OF AGE, THE CHALLENGE IS KEEPING THE STUDENTS
Many colleges are trying to expand their offerings and attract more students by providing distance learning, but online courses seem to have higher dropout rates than traditional courses. Some school administrators believe the attrition rates in distance learning can be attributed to the fact that students who enroll for online courses tend to be older and have responsibilities such as families and jobs that detract from the courses. Meanwhile, others say the problem is not with the students but with the courses, which cannot offer the face-to-face interaction needed to keep students interested. Experts say distance learning professors need to form personal ties to students and clearly define course requirements. In addition, professors should make tests and assignments flexible enough to accommodate a busy student's schedule. Some experts believe that retention rates for online courses will improve as technologies mature and instructors gain more experience working in an online environment. Although statistics range widely at different institutions, administrators agree that completion rates for distance education courses are generally 10 to 20 percentage points lower than in traditional courses.
(Chronicle of Higher Education, 11 Feb 2000 via Edupage)
WORKERS APPROVE OF HIGH-TECH ADVANCES
The majority of American workers no longer feel threatened by today's world of rapid technological change, according to a survey conducted last month by the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University and the Center for Survey Research and Analysis at the University of Connecticut. Of the 1,000 workers interviewed, 75 percent view information innovations positively, believing them to have both economic and individual benefits rather than implications of decreased job security. Approximately 19 percent of those surveyed, a group the Heldrich Center nicknamed the “exiles,” do not use computers on the job nor at home due to financial difficulties or a lack of opportunity. The survey also found strong support for programs that offer incentives to companies for computer training and ownership, subsidies to schools to provide computers and Internet access, and the need to require all high school students to be computer literate.
(Washington Post, 11 Feb 2000 via Edupage)
STATEWIDE VIDEO NETWORK TO LINK ALL SOUTH DAKOTA SCHOOLS
South Dakota Governor Bill Janklow has unveiled the second phase of the state's multimillion dollar partnership with U.S. West – videoconferencing and data transfer technology that will link students and teachers through a new state-wide intranet. Janklow says U.S. West will install over $17 million worth of technology over the next few months, at a deep discount for all of South Dakota's school districts; the equipment is reportedly being provided by 3Com, Gateway, Cisco, VTEL, and others. The Digital Dakota Network will eventually connect all the K-12 public schools so they can share classes or connect to other resources. Janklow says districts can get high-speed T1 connections to the Internet as well as real-time, broadcast quality video. He also says the project will give students in rural districts the same opportunities as those in bigger schools. Schools will be able to share specialty classes, and teachers will be able to transfer notes and use remote resources.
(eSchool News, February 2000 via Edupage)
COMMISSION BEGINS STUDY OF ONLINE EDUCATIONAL MATERIALS
The Congressional Web-Based Education Commission has begun its 10-month stretch of hearings regarding the Internet's potential uses for education. The commission was created to advise policy makers and educators, and it is due to report to the president and Congress in November. The commission will provide input on Web use as Congress considers the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, and it intends to create a Web site to debate and discuss policies for online content and learning strategies. Members say the panel will study the quality of available online educational resources, as well as the gap between schools and individuals who can afford access to technology and those who cannot. Some commission members say Web-based education models could affect or undermine the more traditional structures of education, such as diploma-granting authority, state and local accreditation, and school funding priorities.
(Education Week, 9 Feb 2000 via Edupage)
SCORM PROMOTES ONLINE LEARNING EFFICIENCY
The Department of Defense's Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL) committee last week posted the initial release of guidelines that will allow teaching materials to be reused, with the goal of boosting online education. The Shareable Courseware Object Reference Model (SCORM) version 1.0 lays out rules for creating a Web-based learning management system (LMS) that lets developers reuse instructional content in different applications and platforms. According to the guidelines, content must be independent of context-specific run-time constraints to allow content to be included in multiple applications. Content must also have standard interfaces and data. SCORM includes a Course Structure Format, which is an XML-based model of a course structure that makes content more interchangeable by defining course elements, structure, and external references. SCORM is being developed and distributed by the ADL Co-Laboratory, the University of Wisconsin, and the Wisconsin Technical College System.
(PC Week, 7 Feb 2000 via Edupage)
TINY U.S. SATELLITES MAY BE COMMUNICATIONS FUTURE
Satellites the size of wireless handsets may be used for future telecom applications, announced researchers on Friday. Two of the minuscule satellites, weighing under a half a pound, were deployed in space in late January. As battery power eroded, the journey of the satellites ended on Friday. Called “picosats,” the two satellites sent and received data transmissions from Earth. They were launched by scientists at Aerospace Corp. According to Ernest Robinson, head of the mini-satellite project, the satellites may take the place of larger, costlier telecom satellites in existence today. Rockwell International Corp. supplied the satellites' silicon relays and wireless gear. Scientists predict a slightly larger type of satellite will be developed called a “nanosat,” which will be deployed in groups to provide advanced telecom services.
(Reuters, 11 Feb 2000 via Edupage)
HOUSE PASSES BILL AIMED AT EXPANDING U.S. ROLE IN SCIENCE, COMPUTER RESEARCH
The House yesterday approved a bill that would provide $6.9 billion in funding for computer and science research, in an effort to maintain the country's dominant role in technology. The measure would provide millions of dollars over the next five years for several projects, including ways to make the Internet faster. The money would go to several agencies, including the National Science Foundation, NASA, and the Environmental Protection Agency. The bill also earmarks $95 million for internships for college students in math and science fields.
(Washington Times, 16 Feb 2000 via Edupage)
GORE PROPOSAL COULD NARROW ‘DIGITAL DIVIDE’
Vice President Al Gore will speak at Morgan State University today, where he plans to introduce a blueprint for equipping every U.S. home with Internet access. Gore's plan to bridge the digital divide calls for an introduction of high-speed access to rural areas, made possible by federally funded research to develop lower-cost satellite and wireless technologies. Gore also intends to have the AmeriCorps program of volunteers impart their knowledge of technology to residents of poorer neighborhoods; high-tech companies would also be involved in this effort. Gore's proposal also urges an extension of the moratorium on per-minute Internet-access fees. Gore has made technology a prime issue in his campaign for the presidency.
(USA Today, 15 Feb 2000 via Edupage)
UNIVERSITIES TOLD TO CATCH THE E-WAVE
The increasing role of technology in today's educational environment recently prompted the United Kingdom to form a group consisting of members from the island's four higher education funding bodies – the Higher Education Funding Council for England (Hefce), the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales, the Higher Education Funding Council for Scotland, and the Department of Education Northern Ireland – to discuss proposals to create an e-university able to offer online courses of study leading to an entirely Internet-based degree. Although details of the institution have yet to be worked out, it is expected that the e-university will offer courses through several separate UK universities managed by a central body, a system that would eliminate the need to create an entirely new, self-contained establishment. The e-university will most likely attract overseas students and working adults seeking professional advancement, though some group members hope UK students unable to attend universities because of working hours will also attend. Hefce plans to ask the government for the estimated 50 million pounds necessary to start the online institution, which will subsequently be funded entirely by tuition costs.
(BBC News Online, 15 Feb 2000 via Edupage)
Hancock High School in Kiln, Miss., has used $2.1 million in state technology funds and funding from the local school budget that includes a special bond issue to equip all of its students with laptop computers. Mississippi ranks last among all 50 states when it comes to the amount of money spent on each student, and one out of every three children in the state lives in poverty, making Hancock High School an unlikely trend setter. By providing 1,150 laptops to students and teachers, the school has given geographically isolated areas 24-hour access to the Internet. The region's economy is expected to benefit from providing laptops to its high school students and by beginning technology classes in junior high schools, thereby educating the students to enter into technological jobs rather than being economically dependent on the timber industry and nearby casinos.
(Kiplinger's, Feb 2000 via Edupage)
A NEWER, LONELIER CROWD EMERGES IN INTERNET STUDY
Americans are spending more time online and less time interacting with family and friends, concludes a recent survey of 4,113 adults conducted by Stanford University's Institute for the Quantitative Study of Society. The study, one of the first of its size to focus on the largely ignored societal impacts of today's era of the Internet, strongly supports the notion that electronic relationships are no substitute for face-to-face interaction among people. The study found that 55 percent of Americans have access to the Internet at work or at home, and approximately 20 percent of regular Internet users spend more than 5 hours a week online. Of those 20 percent, 13 percent spend less time with family and friends, 8 percent attend fewer social events, and 25 percent spend more time working at home in addition to spending a full day at the office. The findings of the study also support the assertion that Americans are abandoning traditional forms of mass media, such as newspapers and television, in favor of the Internet.
(New York Times, 16 Feb 2000 via Edupage)
INTERNET2 TEAM SEEKS SPEEDY APPS
The Internet2 consortium is hosting a Land Speed Record competition “for the most demanding end-to-end, bandwidth intensive Internet applications in the world,” with winners to be announced March 29. The winning application will transmit the most bits the greatest distance, says Internet2's Greg Wood. Data-intensive applications, such as programs that transmit terabytes of data or HDTV, are likely winners. Eventually, Internet2 might enable tele-immersion applications that would let holographic images of people interact in a virtual space, Wood says. Four universities have formed the National Tele-Immersion Initiative to help make this technology a reality, and the group is now working on a way to send 3D data over two-way Internet links. Another university group called the Research Channel has already used Internet2 to send high-quality video. Last November the Research Channel used Internet2 to transmit five simultaneous HDTV streams that totaled 1 Gbps, says the group's Amy Philipson.
(PC World Online, 22 Feb 2000 via Edupage)
FUTURE OF HIGH-SPEED NETWORKS
The National Science Foundation's funding for the vBNS and Abilene networks runs out at the end of March, and observers are wondering whether the efforts by government and academia to build a next-generation Internet will succeed. Last year the University Corporation for Advanced Internet Development's Internet2 group started Abilene, with the intention of giving Internet2 members a means of testing applications in an environment more similar to the regular Internet, says Internet2's Greg Wood. The two networks have agreed to let organizations that link to both networks transmit data across the merged architecture and to give Abilene members access to vBNs resources. Institutions that participate in Abilene and vBNS have noticed performance gains as a result of the networks, but acknowledge that the networks are underutilized and lack advanced applications. The networks have been used for applications including telemedicine, HDTV transmission, and remote control of telescopes and electron microscopes. Multicast technology also appears to be benefiting from vBNS and Abilene. Internet2 members are now working to develop middleware that links different databases and allows them to exchange information.
(Network World, 14 Feb 2000 via Edupage)
NEW PROFITS FOR PROFESSORS
A combined $576 million from patent royalties was earned in 1998 by 132 universities, according to an Association of University Technology Managers survey. Columbia University has plans to move beyond the typical nonprofit “dot-edu” models that offer courses and professors' research interests to aggressively market the expertise of its faculty on a new for-profit site. For a cost, researchers will have access to features such as a simulation of the construction and architecture of a French cathedral and interactive 3D models of organic chemicals. Columbia is establishing its for-profit “knowledge site” so that other sites do not begin marketing and profiting from the expertise of its own faculty. Profits from knowledge on the new Web sites will be split between the school, professor, and the professor's department, much like profits from patents are split already. Many observers worry that the school will support profitable professors more than other professors. Columbia would never do something to compromise the integrity of the school, says Ann Kirschner, head of the knowledge site project.
(Newsweek, 28 Feb 2000 via Edupage)
There are 3,700 institutions and 15 million students in the United States today facing the challenge of integrating the past with the present, questioning how to mold the traditional model of higher education into a form that will not become obsolete in a world awash in an information explosion driven by electronic technology. There now exist four different types of educational institutions instead of the single, virtually unaltered model followed for the past 250 years of formal education in America. The first type comprises the traditional notion of a college. The second includes “corporate universities,” on-site training programs developed by individual companies to improve the skills and knowledge of employees. The third category contains mega-universities that recognize no national boundaries, combine the high-tech with the historical, and bridge the gap between the educational experience and the job market. The fourth types are virtual educators that operate nearly entirely online and offer the opportunity for practically anybody to become a teacher or a student. The Internet is restructuring society, shifting our educational market away from one in which producers define the nature of the educational product and the nature of its delivery, toward one in which the consumer is in charge and is no longer simply being fed information but is instead responding to and interacting with that information. Educators cannot be afraid of this new Internet era and instead must embrace it with creativity and understand that education is not an entity separate from the rest of life, but one that depends upon the successful combination of digital innovation and intellectual resources.
(EDUCAUSE Review, Feb 2000 via Edupage)
TECH-DRIVEN EFFICIENCY SPURS ECONOMIC BOOM
Productivity rose significantly at U.S. businesses in the second half of 1999, and experts attribute the increase to investments in technology. The 5 percent productivity increase in the second half of 1999 is the largest gain since 1992, the government reported earlier this month, noting that productivity for the year jumped 2.9 percent. Companies are using technology to finish work faster and with fewer workers, without raising inflation. Experts had wondered why productivity grew so slowly after the 1970s, with the U.S. investing trillions in computers and technology. Now experts say the number of computers in homes and offices has reached a critical mass, and people have increased their knowledge of technology. In addition, experts say this is just the beginning of the productivity gains, and the changes will become more dramatic as the Internet matures and revolutionizes business.
(Los Angeles Times, 22 Feb 2000 via Edupage)
POORER SCHOOLS HAVE TROUBLE GETTING ONLINE
America's poorer schools do not have the Internet access capabilities of the wealthier ones, according to the results of a study conducted last fall by the Department of Education and published last week. The survey of 1,000 public schools discovered that in the poorer schools only 38 percent of classrooms have Internet access as compared to 74 percent in wealthier schools and to the national average of 63 percent. The study also found the ratio of students to computers with Internet access differs as well – seven to one in wealthy schools, 16 to one in poor schools, and nine to one nationwide. Director Linda Roberts of the Department of Education's Office of Educational Technology, though uncertain of the exact reason such disparities exist, speculates the gaps stem from the increased difficulty of modernizing the older school buildings that are typically found in the poorer communities. Workers attempting to outfit more antiquated structures encounter such problems as asbestos dust in the walls, leaky ceilings, and outdated electrical wiring that cannot support the activities of modern computers.
(New York Times Online, 23 Feb 2000 via Edupage)
PUBLISHING WITHOUT PERISHING
The Internet has become a haven for political and social activists seeking broader audiences for their controversial views. Yet some, living in oppressive environments such as China, Singapore, and the Middle East have come to fear reprimand from extremist religious groups or from local governments, which often filter Internet content to ensure social order. To enable these activists to distribute their writings safely, an Internet startup has formed to allow authors to publish sensitive information under the cloak of anonymity. The online bookstore, Booklocker.com, offers official page forms to preserve an author's anonymity, and site creator Angela Adair-Hoy says she will release the authors names only under court order. One Booklocker.com user, who goes by the pen name Savasan Yurtserver, fears terrorist action or political exile in response to his book, “The Bible or The Koran,” which compares flaws in the two holy texts. “In the East, you can't question the scriptures,” says Yurtserver. “There are many terrorist organizations in both my country and in the neighboring countries who take note of the authors that have radical views about religion only to kill them later.”
(Wired News, 25 Feb 2000 via Edupage)
Lured by the dream of success and financed by venture capital companies seeking to strike it rich by finding the next big entrepreneur, anywhere from 5 percent to 40 percent of students enrolled at business schools and graduate schools of computer science and engineering are dropping out to start an Internet business. Numerous universities have been prompted to add entrepreneurial courses and e-commerce programs to their curriculum offerings and sponsor business-plan contests whose winners often receive very generous financial awards from venture firms. Other schools have begun incubator programs that help students' startup companies gain solid footing in the business world, providing them with office space, computers, Internet access, and the like. Although schools are prematurely losing students to the business world at an unprecedented rate, there are many benefits these educational institutions reap from this Internet startup boom. However, this wave of entrepreneurial endeavors is not without its critics. Some schools are seeking to ward off criticism by creating formal guidelines that dictate what professors are and are not permitted to do.
(Industry Standard, 21 Feb 2000 via Edupage)
CALIFORNIA ENTERS SPRING TRAINING IN E-GOV COMPETITION
California Gov. Gray Davis' 2000-2001 budget requests $2 billion for information technology implementation in public and private institutions throughout the state. The first effort will see the Department of Motor Vehicles, which registers 30 million vehicles per year, brought online. Online DMV service has already been set up in Arizona, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Virginia, which also renews licenses online. California also plans to spend $300 million to wire, equip, and provide IT training to the state's schools and educators, $100 million to provide law enforcement agencies with advanced technology, and $1 billion of the total $2 billion to strengthen the private sector through such initiatives as a one stop e-business center providing all the services necessary to do business in the state.
(Washington Technology, 21 Feb 2000 via Edupage)
NO MORE PENCILS, NO MORE BOOKS
Distributed learning is gaining momentum as companies find that today's atmosphere of fast-paced technological development requires constant internal training. Corporate training programs enable employees to learn new applications and IT management lessons, as well as encourage workers to remain loyal to their employers. Distributed learning has emerged as a useful method of corporate training because it is flexible – employees can take a lesson anytime, anywhere, using the Internet, a corporate intranet, or a CD-ROM. The IT industry is particularly well suited to distributed learning, because constant education is needed to introduce workers to the latest technologies. Furthermore, training often gives rise to loyalty among workers, a necessity during the current shortage of IT professionals. “Particularly for technology employees, training is a huge and key retention factor,” says TrainingNet's Dave Eagan. “One thing they expect from an organization is not only the opportunity to learn by doing, but to expand their knowledge by training.”
(Industry Standard, 28 Feb 2000 via Edupage)
Erroneous Predictions and Negative Comments Concerning Scientific and Technological Developments
The following material was originally taken from a Congressional Research Report on Erroneous Predictions and Negative Comments Concerning Scientific and Technological Developments, CB 150, F-381, by Nancy T. Gamarra, Research Assistant in National Security, Foreign Affairs Division, May 29 1969 (revised). It has since been edited, modified and augmented.
Best Book Buys
This site compares prices at 28 (“and growing”) independent and chain online bookstores. Your search will show whether a book is in stock or back-ordered, how soon it will be shipped, and the approximate shipping cost. The site searches for all kinds of books, including new and used books, textbooks, audio books, and out-of-print books. – rb (From Librarian's Index to the Internet)
Engineers in the Movies
A listing of movies about engineers from silent films to the present. Presents a brief plot summary for each film.
Hommage a Hedy Lamarr
Vienna-born movie star and inventor Hedy Lamarr died recently at the age of 85. This bilingual Austrian site originally accompanied an exhibition celebrating her birthday, and focused on the roles of artists and scientists in military research and civilian society. Lamarr pioneered the use of frequency-hopping for World War II torpedoes, a technology now used by mobile telephones. Don't miss the glamorous biography, or the clip of cinema's first nude scene – Hedy Lamarr skinny-dipping, then streaking through the woods – in the 1933 film “Ecstasy.” (From Yahoo's Picks of the Week)
All items from the Scout Report are copyright Susan Calcari, 1994-2000. Permission is granted to make and distribute verbatim copies of the Scout Report provided the copyright notice and this paragraph is preserved on all copies. The InterNIC provides information about the Internet to the US research and education community under a cooperative agreement with the National Science Foundation: NCR-9218742. The Government has certain rights in this material.
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Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this newsletter are those of the participants (authors), and do not necessarily represent the official views, opinions, or policy of the National Science Foundation.