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In the last regular edition of this newsletter, I mistakenly attributed the website Beyond Discovery (http://www4.nationalacademies.org/beyond/beyonddiscovery.nsf/web/homepage?OpenDocument). This website is actually brought to you by the National Academy of Sciences (http://www.nationalacademies.org/), not AAAS. It is a terrific website, please take time to visit it!
This Library recently received a special call from Dr. Torio at the American Chemical Society Project Bookshare. Many of our agency staff members donated several-year-runs of journals as a result of an agency-wide clean up day, and Project Bookshare is absolutely delighted with the 17 boxes of journals we sent to them. These journals are currently on their way to needy libraries in Sierra Leone and Niger. When you have good runs of journals you no longer need contact Project Bookshare directly:
Dr. J.C. Torio
ACS Office of International Activities
American Chemical Society
1155 16th St., NW
Washington, DC 20036 USA
phone: (202) 872-4548 or (800) 227-5558, x 4548
fax: (202) 872-6317
“Users can now get a sneak preview of this new scientific information search engine developed by Elsevier Science and powered by FAST Search and Transfer. At present, the interface offers both simple keyword and advanced searches. Users can also create customized default settings. A sample search for “nucloetide” produced 103,783 hits. Returns can be instantly and conveniently sorted by free and restricted access. The returns have short descriptions with the option to retrieve similar pages and email results. Users can save selected results, and the site offers a number of suggested terms at the bottom of the page to help refine your search. The site will officially launch in March 2001, but it already has considerable potential.” [MD] (From the Scout Report)
(Do take a look at this site. A few quick test searches brought to my mind several improvements I would like to see, and since it is in beta right now this is definitely the time to make suggestions! The “Contact Scirus” button at the top of the page brings up a handy comment form.
Also note the tabs at the top of your search result screen, which allow you to choose only the resources that are free, or only the restricted access resources. At this point, the restricted access resources look to be all from Elsevier journals, but this may expand in future.
I also found it interesting that the two “content types” for this database [check the advanced search screen] appear to take the form of either “full text articles” or “scientist homepages”. I am not sure why Elsevier has chosen “scientists homepages” as opposed to the rest of the web, or what, exactly, they might even mean by “scientists homepages”. [SB])
“Subtitled Audio/Video Search Engine Using Speech Recognition, this tool indexes thousands of hours of content from a wide range of online programs, including Fresh Air, Dr. Toni Grant, PBS Online NewsHour, Car Talk Radio Show, Marketplace Radio Business News, Motley Fool Radio Show, Charlie Rose, and many others. - dl” (From Librarian's Index to the Internet)
“… its press release says contains around 50,000 scientific words and expressions.
The presentation of the search engine is interesting. You're given two query input boxes. The first box is for the main word or phrase, and the second is for any additional information. In the first box I put nerve and in the second box reconstruction.
After you've entered information in the query box, you're given the option to do direct search or dynamic search (which, I see, is pat pend.) The direct search took me to the first of a list of over 21100 results that was powered by Google. (Even though there were over 21100 results found, there were only four pages of results. Going over to Google and doing a search for nerve reconstruction also found 21100 results. In fact, the two initial pages of search results matched.)
The dynamic search takes you to a “power search” type page, where you're given the option to enter words related to your query. Words are also suggested to you. In the case of my nerve reconstruction query, I was given the option to include the words human and synapse. I chose synapse, and added microsurgery as well. These results, which were powered by FAST, were much worse than the results I got from my initial search.
Curious, I went back to the direct search for nerve as the primary word, and reconstruction microsurgery as the secondary words. I got excellent results. Adding synapse clouded the waters, though – apparently synapse is not a good word when researching reconstructive nerve surgery. Doing a dynamic search without the word synapse yielded good results, though not, to a casual survey, as good as the Google/direct search results.
You can narrow your search results into categories. At the upper part of the page there's a drop down menu that allows you to specify categories. For example, you may go to the physics category and search for quantum (main word) cat (additional information). You'll get about half the results you'd get if you went to Google and did the same search.
This idea is intriguing, and I like the categorized searches and two tiers of information input. It'll be interesting to see how it evolves. Worth a look.” (From Research Buzz)
The National Commission on Library and Information Science (NCLIS) has unveiled a legislative proposal which would establish a new federal government information agency. NCLIS has proposed the creation of a “Public Information Resources Agency – PIRA. The ”working draft” legislative proposal was distributed along with NCLIS' Executive Summary of its Comprehensive Assessment of Public Information Dissemination at its November 15th meeting in Washington, D.C. This report and proposal, once finalized by NCLIS in December, will go to Senator John McCain (R-Az) and others in Congress.
PIRA's “primary mission [would be] to serve as the federal government's focal point for providing timely dissemination and permanent public availability for its public information resources.” If Congress and others would approve such an agency, it would be part of the Executive Branch and would consolidate the Superintendent of Documents (SuDOc) the Government Printing Office (GPO), including the Federal Depository Library Program and the National Technical Information Service (NTIS.)
Under the NCLIS proposal, the SuDOc would be called the Superintendent of Public Information Resources (SuPIR) and the FDLP would be called the Public Information Resources Access Program or PIRAP.
The NCLIS' working draft proposal, the Executive Summary and a related NCLIS Fact Sheet are
available at the NCLIS web site.
(I think the above is from a press release, but I am not absolutely sure of the attribution - SB)
A portal is a directory website. It is a website that categorizes other websites, and tries to lead you to them in a structured, hopefully logical, manner.
Other portals are quite specific, seeking websites on only a limited topic. Whatever your topic of interest, there is probably a portal website somewhere waiting to guide you through the web to the sites you want, whether you are looking for high energy physics or old time radio.
Portals are created by people, so they vary tremendously in structure and quality. Some of them just list websites in a given subject in alphabetical order (which I personally find to be of limited utility), some have very clear and very useful categorizations. Because they do have structure and logic, the best portal for your particular information need may depend on how your need fits into the structure as much as on the overall quality of the portal. Most of the NSF Library webpages are portals.
Most of the time, you use a portal when you are looking for a general type of information. For instance, if you just want to see what types of image sites there are that might have photographs of bacteria, you might go to a microbiology portal site and see if they have a category for images. If you are looking for an image of a very specific nature, you would probably be better off using a specific search engine than a portal site. You also use a portal if you want quality information on a topic. Suppose you want information on breast cancer. If you use a search engine, you are likely to be wading through webpages for days. If you go to a portal site, it will lead you to a number of websites that have breast cancer as their major topic, and you can choose the website that best fits your information needs on that particular subject. You can judge something about the quality of the information on the site by seeing the source of the site, and staying with the sources you trust.
If you want an image of a specific bacterium, you could spend a lot of time plowing through portal sites. For a very specific question, like “an image of E. coli”, you are better off using a search engine, and, more specifically, an image-finding search engine. With the proper search engine, you will likely find your image in a just a few minutes.
Always remember that in general, when you are looking for something very specific – a specific document, a specific quote, a specific image – use a search engine. When you are looking for something general – information on a specific topic (rather than a specific document on that topic), types of websites (a calculator for monetary conversions, for instance), or a broad category of websites (images of bacteria), you are better off using a portal or directory than a search engine.
One way is to use other portal sites (directories). For example, Yahoo is a portal site, and under each subject classification they often have a category for “Directories”. Another way is to go to a portal site designed specifically for finding portal sites, like alba36. Many portal sites even have their own site search engine, so you can search on a keyword if you can't guess where a site might fit in its directory structure. Additonally, most specific portal sites will also have links to other portal sites on the same or similar subjects.
Or, if the portal subject you need is in the sciences, you can always visit the NSF Library webpage! I have tried to choose high quality portal sites in each of the subjects of interest to NSF.
http://www.chemweb.com/alchemist (Free registration required)
(The following article is reprinted with permission from ChemWeb.)
Carbon is 4 Ever
Carbon is 4 Ever is the site for those secret spies amongst you. As Agent Bond … Carbon Bond, you work through a series of missions which primarily involve learning about organic chemistry and collect codes that are required for the final mission – Mission Omega. The Mission Selector exhibits these eight missions (labelled A–H) which you must complete in order to save the world.
Mission A is an ‘Introduction to Chemistry’, explaining the concepts of atoms and covalent bonding in easy-to-follow terms; B is the ‘Concept Diagram’ and introduces Agent Bond to organic chemistry and is accompanied by a carbon jargon glossary. Right, now that Agent Bond is armed with the facts, Mission 1 begins (Mission Selector C), after an atom briefing from M (Mendeleev in this instance), Bond must play Atom Casino and uncover cards which show a hydrogen atom on their faces with the clues provided. Once the mission is completed, a codeword (the first of four) is revealed that Bond will need for the final mission.
Mission Selector D introduces Agent Bond to Mission 2 and after a carbon briefing, Bond must activate an organic molecule after adding the correct atoms to make up that organic molecule in order to reveal the second codeword. Mission 3 provides the preparation of ethanal, Bond must highlight the apparatus used in the experiment before the third codeword can be revealed. Mission 4 involves the Periodic Table, Agent Bond, feeling lucky with three lives, must make his/her way across the table by choosing one correct statement from a set of statements in a period. Once safely across, the fourth and final codeword is revealed. Bond is able to relax a little before the final mission as Mission Selector G is an ‘Interview with a Chemist’.
The Atoms Family
The homepage of The Atoms Family features the portraits of six of the most fiendish gothic characters from the black and white era of horror films. Those of you familiar with Lon Chaney Jr, Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff and Elsa Lanchester will immediately recognise The Mummy, The Phantom, Dracula, The Wolf Man, Frankenstein and his Bride. As you pass your cursor over each portrait, the faces distort and shrink adding to their ghoulish natures. You'd be forgiven for thinking this is a site for the horror flick genre which should have accompanying Addams Family music – it is, in fact, a Science Learning Network resource containing educational activities relating to different forms of energy hosted by the Miami Museum of Science.
The Mummy's Tomb uncovers energy conservation, kinetic and potential energy; The Phantom's Portrait Parlor reflects on principles of atoms and matter. Dracula's Library sheds light on the properties of light, waves and particles; whilst The Wolf Man's Ghostly Graveyard lays to rest the myth of fuel conservation and energy transfer. Frankenstein's Lightning Laboratory sparks new life into the different forms of electricity and electrical safety; and finally The Bride of Frankenstein helps the user to navigate the site. The main pages of the characters are graphically animated as are the individual activities/experiments within each category in such a way that the user (which in this instance is a child as this site is catered for children) will not incur nightmares!
And finally …
To continue the tenuous link with movies and chemistry (!), December 7–10 is the Telluride IndieFest. The town of Telluride is a skiing resort perched 8750 feet high in the Colorado Mountains and the IndieFest is formerly known as the Telluride Independent Film and Screenwriters Festival. Those that will be honoured are the feature film, short film and student short film, documentary and screenplay winners. During the festival, all the films will be screened back to back with breaks for meals only, so if you're tempted, apply for your festival pass on-line today!
1. FREE trial to Bretherick's online Reactive Chemical Hazards Database
(Free Chemweb registration required)
“Bretherick's, from Butterworth-Heinemann, is the leading reference work on reactive chemical hazards and is an essential companion for all those working with chemicals. The database covers over 5000 elements or compounds and one of its most valuable features is the extensive cross-referencing of data which links similar compounds or incidents not obviously related. The online version of the database is both text and structure searchable. Searching and viewing the short list of results will always be free, but as a special introductory offer, full records will also be completely FREE of charge until February 1st 2001!” (From ChemWeb)
2. The free web version of the Environmental Fate Data Base has just been updated with over 600 new chemicals and over 550 new references. This database http://esc.syrres.com/efdb.htm covers physical properties, environmental degradation and transport studies, and ambient, effluent, food, and occupational monitoring data on over 16,500 chemicals and 35,000 references.
Polymer Forum (Free ChemWeb registration required)
Polymer Forum provides full-text access to the comprehensive polymer coverage from Elsevier Science FREE until 1 June 2001. Coverage includes the following journals:
Crystal Growth and Design
Electronic versions of these journals from the American Chemical Society are available for free through June 30, 2001. _Crystal Growth and Design_ is “a new journal from the American Chemical Society, dedicated to publishing articles on the physical, chemical, and biological phenomena and processes related to crystal growth and design of new materials.” _Nano Letters_ is ACS's newest journal. It deals with “physical, chemical, and biological phenomena, processes and applications of structures within the nanoscale range.” [HCS] (From the Scout Report)
Find Out Why
Developed through collaboration with Discover magazine, the U.S. National Science Foundation and Disney, Find Out Why! encourages kids to explore the world to discover the answers to questions like how CDs work, the moon phases, lightening and sneezes. Students can select a topic, watch a video clip of hosts Pumbaa and Timon from ‘;The Lion King” and play a game that puts the learning into practice. The experience extends to hands-on activities, some requiring adult participation, and links to additional resources. While the list of topics is small, the depth of information and experience supporting each topic is outstanding. Exploration is the beginning of all science, and this site makes it fun. CK (From New Scientist Planet Science)
Annotated List of 36 Federally Funded Research and Development Centers (FFRDCs): Fiscal Year 2001
This list provides geographic location, activity categories, and descriptions of 36 Federally Funded Research and Development Centers (FFRDCs) from the National Science Foundation (NSF). The descriptions are one-to-three paragraphs long, and links to Websites of each FFRDC and its sponsoring agencies (Department of Defense, Department of Health and Human Services, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, etc.) are given. Also at this site is a listing of Decertifications, Closures and Renaming of Federally Funded Research and Development Centers, 1968-2000. [HCS] (From the Scout Report)
Assessing E-Government: The Internet, Democracy, and Service Delivery by State and Federal Governments by Darrell M. West
This interesting report gives summary information on how the aggregate of federal and state government websites measure up in such areas as disability access, contact information, services offered, democratic outreach and more.
Measuring Up 2000: The State-by-State Report Card for Higher Education – The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education
Posted on November 30 and billing itself as the “first state-by-state report card for higher education,” this Website grades states on “their performance in five categories: preparation, participation, affordability, completion, and economic and civic benefits.” The site offers several different options for examining the report's assessments and the supporting data. Users can view each state's performance in the five categories in the States at a Glance section or examine both data and assessment in-depth by following the link to States Profiles. Users can also access a map that color-codes the states in terms of their performance in the five categories and consult articles, findings, student profiles, supporting documents, and more which have been made available on-site. Users may also compare the performance of various states as well as compare an individual state's performance changes over time. While we suspect some may take issue with the final assessments, both the data used and the criteria applied are clearly presented here by the study's authors. The National Center, an “independent, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, … promotes public policies that enhance Americans' opportunities to pursue and achieve high-quality education and training beyond high school.” [DC] (From the Scout Report)
Resources for Scientists Teaching Science [.pdf]
Hosted by Cornell University, this site offers a number of resources and tips for scientists who teach. Collected from undergraduate courses in evolution, ecology, and animal behavior, but applicable to a range of science courses, the materials include writing assignment ideas, peer review guidelines, discussion tips, hints on using the Web, reading lists, exam questions, and sample syllabi, among others. The site also contains some annotated links for teaching, biology, writing, and TAs. A nice, straightforward collection of useful resources, many of which may be of use to teachers in any discipline. [MD] (From the Scout Report)
Evolution – UCMP
This virtual evolution exhibit at the University of California at Berkeley (Museum of Paleontology) combines several of the best resources we've evaluated, such as Phylogenetic Systematics and the Talk Origins Archive, among others. In addition, the Evolution Website provides information on the Theory of Evolution (with links to further information including Timeline of Evolutionary Thought; Systematics; Dinosaur Discoveries; and Vertebrate Flight) and the History of Evolutionary Thought (including dozens of biographical summaries). For educators or students interested in reviewing or learning about evolution in a historical context, this Website will be of much use. [LXP] (From the Scout Report)
Tesla – Master of Lightning
PBS explores the life and legacy of Nikola Tesla (1856-1943) in this detailed web backgrounder for a television biography premiering on December 12, 2000. Born in Serbia, Tesla arrived in New York City in 1884 and was quickly hired by his idol, Thomas Edison. When conflicts developed, he sold his revolutionary patents to a Mr. Westinghouse and continued to experiment and innovate – AC motors, Tesla coils, radio, remote control devices, high-frequency lighting all bear the signature of his genius. Master the fundamentals of alternating and direct current (AC/DC), power transmission, or magnetic fields – it's positively electric. (From Yahoo's Picks of the Week)
Transatlantic Cable Comunications [QuickTime]
This new addition to Canada's digital collections chronicles the role played in worldwide communications by the Nova Scotian town of Canso and the nearby community of Hazel Hill as home to one end of the transatlantic cable linking Britain and North America. The site explores the history of telegraphy, the cable's social and economic impact on the community, and some famous messages sent and received. It also examines the science of telegraphy, the construction of the cable, and some key inventions. In addition, users will find here some photos, several videos, a glossary, and a FAQ. While by no means the most extensive online history exhibit, this site should appeal to anyone interested in the history of communications or history of science. [MD] (From the Scout Report)
North American Drought: A Paleo Perspective
Global climate change is a topic of interest to all. This site, created by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, looks at droughts in North America. Weather data is collected by using fairly modern technology, and by paleoclimatologists, which gather information about climate by studying the rings of trees and sediment. (From Blue Web'N)
Savage Earth Online
Another fine website published by PBS Online, an adjunct of the nonprofit organization responsible for the largest public television network in the USA. “Savage Earth” has a ton of content about the various subdisciplines that study geological hazards; it is divided among four subpages: Hell's Crust: Our Everchanging Planet (plate tectonics), the Restless Planet (earthquakes and seismology), Out of the Inferno (volcanoes and volcanology), and Waves of Destruction (tsunamis). Be sure to check out the Animations Menu, which links to four VERY well designed animations (requires the “Flash” browser plug-in, which is free and available via hypertext link from this subpage) of phenomena pertaining to the four subject areas mentioned above. This website is packed with subpages, so plan to explore it entirely over a period of several days! (From Websurfer's Biweekly Earth Science Review)
Climate Diagnostics Center (CDC)
A collaborative project of CIRES (Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences) and NOAA (the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration), the Climate Diagnostics Center (CDC) strives “to identify the nature and causes of climate variations, on time scales ranging from a month to centuries” so as to predict future climate. The homepage offers a host of online information, from a broad overview of climate diagnostics, to research summaries on interseasonal/interannual climate variability or Hydrologic Cycle Studies, to a What's New? section giving the latest research results and current job opportunities. For researchers and students alike this Webpage will be a useful information hub. [LXP] (From the Scout Report)
Exploring Our Ocean Planet from Space
Another excellent website from NASA, this one presents the various uses of satellite missions to provide important information on a variety of oceanographic studies. The site talks about the various missions and projects, provides teaching materials and news coverage, and points to additional links. Topics include everything from subtle differences in ocean color and their meaning, to measuring ocean salinity by satellite, to tracking sea surface winds. (Thanks to Netsurfer Science)
The Ocean Drilling Program Home Page
The best example of the “Exploration Geology” category I can think of. By “exploration” I mean the act of seeking knowledge about the planet without thought of economic gain … seeking knowledge for its own sake, if you will. A description and tour of the Ocean Drilling Program gives a good introduction to the purpose and goals of this massive undertaking. The Publication Services and Online Database subpages are the main delivery system for the scientific product of the ODP. The Publication Services Department of the Science Operator is responsible for the production of the series of publications that summarize the scientific and technical accomplishments of each cruise. The database contains 450 tables of ODP's marine geoscience data that are collected onboard the drillship JOIDES Resolution. The database includes paleontological, lithostratigraphic, geochemical, physical, sedimentological, and geophysical data for ocean sediments and lithified rocks encountered in each drillhole. (From Websurfer's Biweekly Earth Science Review)
Meteorites and their Properties
While seeing a shooting star is considered good luck, the real fortune lies in finding the resulting meteorite on the surface of the Earth. The Department of Planetary Sciences at the University of Arizona developed this guide to explain the creation of meteors and their impact of meteorites on the Earth, to provide a classification of meteorite properties, and to distinguish between comet and meteorite debris. The guide includes instructions for handling a suspected meteorite and a form to report your findings to the American Meteor Society. The text contains numerous photographs and diagrams, and highlighted words appear in the glossary. This guide provides a unique resource for anyone wanting to add meteorites to a specimen collection. For the curious: the colorful image used along the page border and navigation buttons is taken from a meteorite found in Antarctica. CK (From New Scientist Planet Science)
The Pictorial Periodic Table
This online periodic table of the elements is a fabulous find for students of chemistry. On the main page, a clickable periodic table allows users to choose an element and then view a page listing that element's electron configuration, atomic weight and number, isotopes and product elements, and a number of other physical properties such as ionization potential and boiling and melting points. Each entry is extremely thorough and contains links to related elements. The Pictorial Periodic Table is also easily searchable by atomic and covalent radius, density, boiling and melting point, electronegativity, ionization potential, heat properties, and atomic weight or number. In addition, users can perform keyword searches. Graphs and tables of element properties, alternative styles of periodic table (e.g., spiral, pyramid), a special page on isotopic properties, a printable table, and links to other periodic table pages are among the wealth of information provided. The site is provided by the Chemlab server of Phoenix College, AZ. [HCS] (From the Scout Report)
Origami Mathematics has detailed discussions of the geometry of origami, along with instructions and models (some of which would make great Christmas ornaments, by the way) and links to additional webistes linking origami with geometry.
(Thanks to Netsurfer Science)
Unwrapped: The Mysterious World of Mummies [Flash, RealPlayer, IE 5.0+, Netscape 4.5+]
Designed exclusively for a broadband audience, this new site from Discovery.com and Second Story combines animation, text, audio commentary, video, and music to tell the stories of some famous mummies. In all, eleven different mummies are explored in four collections of animated and interactive narratives: Finding, Unraveling, Making, and Listening. Special features include interactive tours of unwrapping and making a mummy (the latter features a video of a modern mummy-making experiment) and a 3-D tour of a pharoah's tomb (this last option did not work so well on our visits). Simply put, this is just a really neat site that actually makes good on its promise of maximizing the storytelling potential of interactive media. [MD] (From the Scout Report)
“Young People in Changing Societies” – UNICEF [.pdf]
“Young Voices in Changing Societies”
Released earlier this month, this report from UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre offers an initial comprehensive look at the first generation of youth to come to maturity since the fall of the Berlin Wall. Topics covered include health, education, employment, crime, and young adult participation in government. The report suggests numerous ways to improve the situation of young people across the region. Also on-site is “Young Voices in Changing Societies,” a report based on “the views of young people gathered during focus group discussion and individual interviews in six transition countries: the Czech Republic, Latvia, Romania, Russia, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.” The full text of both reports may be downloaded by chapter in .pdf format. The text of the main report is also available in Russian, and a summary may be downloaded in English, Russian, or Italian. [MD] (From the Scout Report)
Social Criticism Review
Frequently updated, this site serves as a well-linked gateway to leftist-friendly reviews, studies, and articles available on the Web on a variety of topics. Some of the dozens of subject headings offered here include “progress and its critics; Science in a free society: open to criticism; rationalism: a guiding principle gone astray; technology and its social side effects; debt boomerang of the Third World; the counterproductive end of economic growth” and many others. Most of these headings have roughly a dozen or more links to articles and reviews by progressive scholars and journalists. The lack of annotations or dates for entries are a drawback, but the volume and breadth of materials offered here makes the site a valuable resource for those wishing to access social criticism from the left online. [DC] (From the Scout Report)
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LEARNING GETS SOME TECHNICAL SUPPORT
The digital divide is clearly present in U.S. schools, according to a recent report from Market Data Retrieval. The report found that schools that have a majority of white students are twice as likely to use the Internet with classroom instruction and have nearly twice as many computers with access to the Web than schools with predominantly minority enrollments. Although teachers once saw technology as a way to bridge inequalities in education, they now say the rapid development of computers, the Internet, and the hardware necessary to keep these systems connected has left disadvantaged areas trailing far behind. Educators are turning to both the government and the business community to compensate for this difference. Under the Telecommunications Act of 1996, schools can access a pool of $2.25 billion each year to provide Internet access and networking. The Department of Education also supplies advice for schools seeking the support of the local business community. Businesses have responded, including plans from Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, and other companies to provide students with their own laptops.
(Los Angeles Times, 30 November 2000 via Edupage)
GLITCH-FREE, PEOPLE-PROOF COMPUTERS?
NASA plans to announce partnerships with several major high-tech firms and scientists at Carnegie Mellon University in an effort to build glitch-free computers. The partnerships, to be made on Dec. 11 at NASA's Ames Research Center, will highlight the space agency's attempts to coordinate the development of new projects with the private sector. NASA and firms such as Hewlett-Packard and IBM will work on ways to make computers less prone to error. Such errors likely costs trillions to governments, people, and businesses. The problem is especially acute for NASA, which needs computers to be reliable as possible to survive missions throughout the solar system while operating without any direct human control. Scientists undertaking this project will explore ways to improve the computers themselves, the operating systems and software that run them, and the infrastructure that powers and connects them to one another. They will take a special look at the semiconductor industry, where error rates fall far below those in the computer industry despite a similar level of complexity. However, many scientists are skeptical of the NASA effort, saying glitch-free computers would be a great idea if anyone could afford them.
(SiliconValley.com, 3 December 2000 via Edupage)
MICROSOFT, IBM, SUN TO ADVANCE FAIL-SAFE COMPUTING
Carnegie Mellon University, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and 12 leading computer and software companies, including IBM, Microsoft, and Sun, in January will launch the High Dependability Computing Consortium. “There's a tremendous embedding of software into the fabric of the United States,” says the director of NASA's Ames Research Center, Henry McDonald, who argues that this fact demands that computing systems be “utterly reliable.” The High Dependability Computing Consortium, which also consists of representatives from Adobe Systems, Compaq, Hewlett-Packard, ILOG, Marimba, Novell, Silicon Graphics, Siebel Systems, and Sybase, will develop fail-safe systems for use in applications such as air-traffic control, Internet communication, power generation, space exploration, health care, highway safety, and e-commerce.
(Bloomberg, 11 December 2000 via Edupage)
LINUX LOOMS LARGE AT IBM
Linux is a “highly disruptive force” that will revolutionize computer applications just as the Internet revolutionized networking, says IBM Linux Technology Center director Daniel Frye. At IBM's third annual Linux summit this week in Austin, Texas, “we were able to bring people from across all areas of [IBM]--from the S/390 mainframes all the way down to the ThinkPad – and they're all talking about the same operating system,” Frye says. “This spans everybody in IBM and is unlike anything we've ever done.” Headlining IBM's Linux efforts is the company's drive to combine Linux and the reliability and scalability of its mainframe computers, allowing the open source platform to spread further into mission-critical applications. At the University of New Mexico's Albuquerque High Performance Computing Center, IBM is experimenting with clustering large-scale Linux configurations. The LosLobos supercomputer project consists of 256 Linux-running IBM Netfinity servers with 375 gigaflops of processing power.
(eWeek Online, 1 December 2000 via Edupage)
LEARNING IN THE WEB
E-learning initiatives such as the Web site WebCT must be analyzed and evaluated in the same manner in which teachers analyze and comment on knowledge, according to Dr. Ron Burnett, president of the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design in Vancouver, British Columbia. Online learning is still in its early stages, says Burnett, but most of the courses tend to bring the conventional classroom experience to the Internet with live meetings and tutorials to prevent students from feeling isolated. Essentially, the developers of e-learning sites are still experimenting with teaching on the Web. Burnett says experts must decide if learning is merely having access to information or something more. He says teachers help students transform information into knowledge. Nevertheless, Burnett envisions innovative possibilities for Web-based education, a market that is expected to exceed $11.5 billion by 2003. Burnett says, “What is most needed is a way of thinking about the Web that incorporates its specific properties into a new model of learning.”
(Interactive Week, 4 December 2000 via Edupage)
IT'S THE TECH-LITE GENERATION
Many computer science and engineering majors today do not understand the fundamentals of how computers work, and colleges are modifying their curriculum to fill this gap. In the past, engineering majors came to college with experience in taking apart and rebuilding machines. However, today's engineering students “have never taken a toaster oven apart, certainly never built a radio,” says Virginia Tech's Lynn Abbott. David Macaulay, author of “How Things Work,” attributes the lack of understanding about computer architecture to computers themselves. Making a computer work typically requires pressing the right keys, not tearing the machine apart, Macaulay says. Concerned about this trend, colleges are beginning to offer courses that provide hands-on training. Virginia Tech, for example, requires students in Intro to Computer Engineering to build digital circuits. Arizona State University focuses on the design process and testing real designs, while the University of Colorado built a special lab to provide future engineers with hands-on design experience. At the same time, colleges are offering new “tech-lite” courses for non-technical majors who want to learn some basic technology skills.
(Interactive Week, 4 December 2000 via Edupage)
DEVELOPING COUNTRIES BENEFIT FROM DATABASE PROJECT
Officials at the Open Society Institute have made an appeal to the private sector for help in providing countries in transition access to commercial databases. Over the past year the foundation, associated with financier George Soros, has subsidized the cost of accessing six databases offered by EBSCO Publishing so that libraries in 39 developing countries could offer scholars access to that information. Daniela Gondova, a library official in Slovakia, says she can not imagine what researchers would do without Electronic Information for Libraries Direct. Soros, a Hungarian-born American financier and philanthropist, said, “It's our most ambitious attempt to date to bridge the gap in access to information – the worrisome ‘digital divide’ – between countries in transition and the richer nations.” The director of the project, Michael Kay, says corporations that will ultimately benefit from a tech-savvy society should help sponsor the program.
(Chronicle of Higher Education. 15 December 2000 via Edupage)
VENTURE FIRM MINES COLLEGES FOR RESEARCH THAT CAN PAY OFF
Venture capital firm Diamondhead Ventures is tapping university labs as a source of ideas for commercial technologies. University labs have provided many breakthroughs that led to profitable commercial ventures. Advances at Stanford, for example, led to the creation of Yahoo!, Sun Microsystems, and Cisco Systems. Diamondhead co-founder David Lane says university labs are benefiting from hundreds of millions of dollars in funding from organizations such as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the National Science Foundation. As more research and development money goes to universities, research at corporate technology labs is slowing, Lane says. Diamondhead looks for research projects that can lead to a commercial project in 12 to 18 months and works with graduate students and faculty to carry the project through the commercialization process. Universities can benefit from Diamondhead's technical expertise, low-cost manufacturing, and hardware and software resources.
(Investor's Business Daily, 13 December 2000 via Edupage)
The Real Millenium
This website from the US Naval Observatory is a count down to the *real* start of the New Millenium, which will be this coming New Year's Day. (Great excuse to have another really fabulous party!). Most of the website is quite brief, with explanations, facts, history of the “Time Ball”, and an extensive discussion of the first sunrise of the millenium, with maps, charts, and all the information you need to monitor this important event.
THE BEAGLE BRIGADE
The USDA's Beagle Brigade recruits and uses Beagles at 21 international airports, three land border ports, and select mail facilities. The Beagles are used to detect prohibited agricultural items such as fruits, plants, and meats. There are about 50 Beagles working at 90 ports of entry used to detect the illegal entry of agricultural plants and animals. Pests and diseases. After safeguarding America's agricultural plants and animals, these Beagles retire from their work with their USDA Inspectors. Upon retirement, the USDA National Detector Dog Training Center in Orlando, Florida ensures that the dogs get placed in good homes. The beagles recruited by the Center that don't make it through the evaluation and training program are placed in good homes. “Beagles available for adoption from USDA National Detector Dog Training Center” Animal Welfare Information Center Bulletin, v. 10, no. 3-4, Winter 1999, page 18 (A 17.27/2:10/3-4) is where you will get more details. If you'd like more information on adopting a beagle from the National Detector Dog Training Center please contact the center at (407) 816-1192. http://www.aphis.usda.gov:80/travel/adopt.html. (From PHILIP YANNARELLA's Home Page at http://www.nku.edu/~yannarella/ – Check out his nice government documents newsletter!) [FYI: Beagles are among the breeds rated least likely to bite. As dogs go, this is a truly child-friendly breed.]
Bureau of Land Management National Wild Horse and Burro Program Adoption Programs
Due to severe drought conditions and wildfires during the summer of 2000, several thousand wild horses and burros were removed from the public rangelands. Many of these animals are available for adoption or auction. You must meet certain standards designed to ensure the animals will have good homes, but these animals are available for rock bottom prices. Most are halter trained and ready for a saddle, although not yet trained for riding. Included in this site is a state organized list of Wild Horse and Burro trainers. Help a piece of America's wild heritage! Check out the photo gallery – these are some fabulous animals!
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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