The Scout Report -- Volume 10, Number 26

July 2, 2004

A Publication of the Internet Scout Project
Computer Sciences Department, University of Wisconsin-Madison

NSDL Scout Reports

Research and Education

General Interest

Network Tools

In The News

NSDL Scout Reports

NSDL Scout Report for Math, Engineering, and Technology

The fourteenth issue of the third volume of the MET Report is available. Its Topic in Depth section offers websites and comments about Aerodynamics.

Research and Education

Center for the Improvement of Early Reading Achievement [pdf]

Representing a consortium of educators from five universities (including the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, and the University of Georgia) the Center for the Improvement of Early Reading Achievement (CIERA) is a national center for research on early reading. With substantial support from the Department of Education, CIERA conducts research into the nature of enabling young people to read effectively at an early age, along with sponsoring a popular summer institute each year. Educational researchers and teachers will want some time browsing through their online archive which contains full-length research reports and shorter pieces on topics such as reading literacy. Along with these more general reports, there is the CIERA Technical Report Series, which cover such topics as word learning and effective schools. Finally, the CIERA has also placed an archive of its presentations on various reading-related topics (dating back to 1999) online here for use by the general public. [KMG]

State Arts Agencies 1965-2003: Whose Interests to Serve? [pdf]

Many commentators on public policy have noticed a marked downturn in publicly-sponsored arts organizations over the past few years; and, in some cases, certain arts agencies have become moribund as a result of decreased funding. The RAND Corporation recently released a 60-page report on this particular phenomenon (commissioned by The Wallace Foundation) and authored by one of their staff members, Dr. Julia Lowell, an economist. This intriguing report looks at the past four decades of funding for the arts at the state level, noting that state arts agencies "enjoyed increasing levels of legislative appropriations in the roughly 15 years following the creation of the National Endowment for the Arts in 1965." Since then, funding has declined (for the most part), with 2003 being a particularly difficult year, as 43 out of 56 state and territorial arts agencies suffered declines in their general fund appropriations. The report has some compelling policy suggestions, including a note that arts agencies may have to work closely with local communities in order to determine priorities. [KMG]

Ecological Society of America [pdf]

Founded in 1915, the Ecological Society of American (ESA) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization of scientists that is dedicated to several primary goals related to the promotion of ecological science, raising the public's level of awareness of the importance of ecological science, and increasing the resources available for the conduct of ecological science. The website is an indispensable source of material about ecological science and the society's various activities, including the annual meeting, career opportunities, membership information, and publications. The publications section is particularly useful, as visitors can learn about society journals (such as Ecology), monographs, and the popular Issues in Ecology series. Visitors have complete access to the Issues in Ecology series (in English and Spanish). Journalists and the general public will want to look at the Public Affairs Office area which features news releases and the bi-weekly Policy News update, which summarizes major environmental and science policy news from the previous two weeks. [KMG]

Silk Road: Trade, Travel, War and Faith [Macromedia Shockwave]

Pathways of travel have led to some of the most compelling and creative cultural exchanges in human history, and the Silk Road was one such pathway. Stretching from China to the Mediterranean, the Silk Road was actually a complex network of interconnected pathways that were influenced by a diverse set of civilizations, including those in China, India, and Turkey. While the area around the Silk Road was the subject of numerous archaeological digs for centuries, one amazing find was made in northwest China in 1907 by the explorer Sir Marc Aurel Stein. In a previously walled-up cave near Dunhuang, he came across thousands of manuscripts, paintings, and a few printed items that had remained unseen for close to a millennium. One document found by Stein in this cache was the world's earliest, dated and printed book, the Diamond Sutra. On this site, visitors can view a beautiful virtual version of this lovely work, which is one of the central texts of Indian Buddhism. As well as examining various sections of the work, visitors can listen to audio narration about different segments of the Diamond Sutra and read short pieces about the book. Visitors will also want to look through five themes addressed on the site, such as the development of the book, play on the Silk Road (dealing with various games and pastimes), and buddhas and bodhisattvas. [KMG]

Baltimore Ecosystem Study

Many ecologists work to understand how various parts of a given ecological system work or function with other systems in their vicinity, but relatively few attempt to bring together all of this work with major urban areas. One such impressive project is the Baltimore Ecosystem Study, which aims to understand metropolitan Baltimore as an ecological system; and in doing so, bring together researchers from the biological, physical and social sciences to work on this formidable task that is truly interdisciplinary. At the site, visitors can learn about the staff of the project and read about its various thematic areas of inquiry, including biodiversity, education, soil, stream and watershed studies, and vegetation. A good place to start before diving into the numerous research projects would be the research area, which explains the basic goals of the project, the theories that the research team is drawing on, and the central questions of its work. The Baltimore Ecosystem Study has also been approved for use in classrooms by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and educators will find materials that they can draw on to teach various concepts and ideas here as well. [KMG]

Edros Number Project

Have you ever wondered about the mathematics behind the idea of "six degrees of separation?" The Erds Number Project offers several fairly comprehensive lists of co-author relationships to elaborate (with a bit of humor) studies of the dynamics involved in "the collaboration graph," which the website says is "a real-life fairly large graph for combinatorialists to study." The co-author relationship list begins with the Hungarian mathematician Paul Erds and branches outward, so that anyone who co-authored with Erds is assigned Erds number 1 and anyone who co-authored with an Erds number 1 is assigned the Erds number 2, and so on. The website offers some suggestions for how the lists might be used, including finding your own Erds number, testing algorithms, or just getting a sense of the different areas of mathematics represented by Erds co-authors. Visitors can also learn more about Erds, read articles about collaboration in mathematics, or browse through the websites which are linked from the co-author data lists. This site is also reviewed in the July 2, 2004 NSDL MET Report. [VF]

The Ottomans

Taking on a subject as vast as the Ottomans and their empire is a formidable task, but that is exactly what Korkut Ozgen has done with this fine website dedicated to providing information about their long and colorful history. Mr. Ozgen is a graduate of Bogazici University in Istanbul, and is particularly interested in the non-Muslim communities of the Ottoman society. The site is divided into several primary sections, including those dedicated to Ottoman history, their military campaigns, and their art and culture. In the history section, visitors can read brief essays (accompanied with various historical visual artifacts) on the various periods of Ottoman history, from the 13th century to World War I. The arts and culture section is quite splendid, as visitors may learn first-hand about the amazing legacy bequeathed to future generations from the Ottomans in the areas of calligraphy, architecture, ceramics and carpets. The site is rounded out by a glossary of terms and an extensive reference section for those who would like to read more about the Ottomans. [KMG]

General Interest

Shangri La

While the name Shangri-La may conjure up an image of the mythical place from the book (and popular 1937 film) Lost Horizon by James Hilton, this particular Shangri-La is the Honolulu home of Doris Duke. The home is widely considered one of Hawaii's most architecturally significant homes, and overlooks the Pacific Ocean and Diamond Head. Duke was the heir to the fortune of James Buchanan Duke (the benefactor of Duke University, which bears his name), and at a young age, developed a fascination for the multifaceted cultural traditions of the Islamic world. She built Shangri-La in the late 1930s as a home and refuge, and as a place to showcase the hundreds of acquisitions she had made across the Middle East and South Asia. The site allows visitors to learn more about the eclectic architecture of the home and its grounds and, equally important, the opportunity to view selected pieces from her collection of over 3500 objects of art. In addition, visitors to the site can learn about the various conservation programs sponsored by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the other Duke properties, such as the Duke Farms in central New Jersey. [KMG]

Destination Modern Art - MOMA [Flash 6]

Grab your kids and join a couple of space aliens on a mission to explore modern art from MOMA's permanent collection (and at its satellite PS1), a former public school building. (Notably, the five works and associated activities at MOMA amused a seven-year-old for at least 25 minutes!) These activities include Listen (especially good on Van Gogh's Starry Night), Tools (make your own collage along with Romare Beardon's The Dove), and Look, explanations of the images in a Frida Kahlo self-portrait. The PS1 portion of the site is an interactive tour of selected artworks including Jennifer Cho's Haystacks, William Kentridge's paper cutouts, and a video installation by Pipilotti Rist, Selbstlos im Lavabad.[DS]

The "I Have a Dream" Foundation

In 1981, Eugene Lang returned to give a speech at his former elementary school in New York to graduating sixth graders. When the principal informed Lang that relatively few of these students would make it through high school, Lang changed his prepared remarks to say that he would promise every sixth grader in the school college tuition if they finished high school. In doing so, the "I Have a Dream" Foundation was born, and the program continues to this day, buoyed by an extensive network that is in place in 64 cities across 27 states. At the site, users can learn about the program's history, its basic tenets, and the current staff members who work at the foundation. Users of the site can also use the information here to learn about their current projects, learn about volunteer opportunities, and learn about success stories from the foundation. [KMG]

The Center of the American West [pdf]

Understanding what exactly the American West is about is a thorny question, whether it be approached from a historical viewpoint, an ecological framework, or even what the region means to the American populace. Looking at the American West through these lenses (and several others) is what the Center of the American West at the University of Colorado is largely about. Organized in 1989, the Center has hosted 30-40 public events each year on a multitude of Western topics, published its Reports from the Center on important Western issues, and has examined the changing dynamics of ranchlands in the region. At the site, visitors can read and download the center's various reports, read about ongoing interdisciplinary research projects, and learn about the distinguished lecture series, which has featured speakers such as Richard Rodridguez and Sherman Alexie. [KMG]

NOAA Paleoclimatology Program

The study of paleoclimatology is an activity that goes on all around the world, in large part because such a vast undertaking entails collecting scientific data from many different sites. As such, this site has a great deal to offer both scientists working in the field and the layperson who may be interested in learning more about the world of paleoclimatology. One area that may be of particular interest to scientists is the World Data Center for Paleoclimatology, which provides many types of climate proxy data gathered from thousands of locations around the world. The Paleo Perspectives area of the site is quite helpful, as it explains how this scientific area informs the general understanding of climate change and global warming. The Education & Outreach area of the site is, likewise, quite useful, as it contains a basic introduction to paleoclimatology and a climate timeline. The site is rounded out by a section that talks a bit about the goals of the group's work and various funding opportunities. [KMG]

A Child's Place [pdf, QuickTime]

The Demos group is a public-policy think tank in the United Kingdom that researches various issues such as urban development and the environment, among others. Recently, the group partnered with the Green Alliance, an independent environmental charity group in the UK, to create this 21-page paper on children and their environments. To accomplish this work, they interviewed a series of children in February and March 2004 in order to better understand their attitudes towards their environment and how it affected them. The report had some interesting findings, including the observation that access to high quality natural environments for urban children is not nearly as open as it is to those in rural settings. The report goes on to recommend that new ways be found to facilitate environmental education through out-of-school learning and that more consideration be given to children's needs in the decision-making process around the design of public space. The report is also accompanied by an eleven minute video that was made to explicate some of the work that went into this process. [KMG]

Network Tools

iTunes for Windows 4.6 [Windows Operating System]

Since its initial release, iTunes has become a popular favorite with Mac users. Recently, Apple released this free version of iTunes for Windows. For those who haven't tried iTunes yet, the program functions as a digital-jukebox, and includes the ability to listen to over 250 free Internet radio stations and the ability to burn custom playlists to CDs and MP3 CDs as well. Other novel features include iMix, which lets users post and email songs in their playlists for the consideration of others. This version of iTunes is compatible with those systems running Windows 2000 or XP. [KMG]

WebTunnel Free 2.16 [Macintosh Operating System]

With all the advertisements and viruses going around the Internet, savvy computer users are looking for more secure ways to browse their favorite sites. One application that may be worth a look is this free version of Web Tunnel that was recently released for the general public. This application blocks various pop-up advertisements, masks IP addresses, and allows for anonymous web surfing. Web Tunnel Free 2.16 is compatible with all systems running Mac OS X and higher. [KMG]

In The News

Supreme Court Rules on Internet Pornography Law

Right to Free Speech Outweights Concerns About Minors Access
Slates Jurisprudence: High Court Blocks Web Porn Law [RealOnePlayer]
Rulings Good News for Web-Filtering Firms
Court to Congress Online Nannies: Youre Fired, Again
Findlaw: Ashcroft, Attorney General v. American Civil Liberties Union et al.
Americas Online Pursuits: The Changing Picture of Whos Online and What They Do [pdf]

The current session of the Supreme Court ended this week, and included a number of heavily debated cases, including the long-standing debate over the 1998 Child Online Protection Act, which has never actually been in effect. In its decision, the Court ruled 5-4 against giving the U.S. government the ability to enforce this latest version of a criminal law that requires commercial websites to shield minors from sexually explicit material. In the ruling for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy noted that the original 1998 law "presumes that parents lack the ability, not the will, to monitor what their children see." Kennedy continued by also noting that "By enacting programs to promote use of filtering software, Congress could give parents that ability without subjecting protected speech to severe penalties." An attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union remarked that the ruling "has made it safe for artists, sex educators and Web publishers to communicate with adults about sexuality without risking jail time." Mark Corallo, a spokesman for the U.S. Justice Department was less enthusiastic about the ruling, noting that "Congress has repeatedly attempted to address this serious need, and the court yet again opposed these common-sense measures to protect Americas children." In its ruling, the Supreme Court didnt rule out the possibility that the law (or a variation of it) would be upheld, though several commentators have noted that given the recent rejections of restrictions against online pornography it seems that the justices are not terribly receptive to such measures.

The first link will take visitors to a recent news article from the San Francisco Chronicle about the recent Supreme Court ruling. The second link leads to an audio commentary from this past Tuesday, offered by National Public Radios Alex Chadwick, which discusses the Supreme Courts ruling on the enforcement of the Child Online Protection Act and some of the other Supreme Court decisions of this past week. The third link leads to a rather interesting news story from the Ecommerce Times about the potential benefits to companies that sell software for filtering online adult content that may accrue as a result of this recent decision. The fourth link leads to a trenchant staff editorial from USA Today that analyzes the recent ruling, noting that "...monitoring kids behavior is best left to parents, not politicians." The fifth link leads to the full-text of the recent Supreme Court decision, including the dissenting opinion offered by Justice Stephen Breyer. For a more general portrait of what people are doing on the Internet, this interesting report from the Pew Internet & American Life Project offers some nice insights into the activities of Internet users, including the observation that the most dominant use for the Internet still remains the receiving and transmission of email. [KMG]

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