The Scout Report -- Volume 10, Number 33

August 20, 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 Reports for the Life Sciences and Physical Sciences

The seventeeth issues of the third volumes of the Life Sciences Report and Physical Sciences Report are available. The Topic in Depth section of the Life Sciences Report annotates sites on Nutrition and Athletics. The Physical Sciences Report's Topic in Depth section offers websites and comments about Floods.

Research and Education

Word Count

Words are used as invectives, toasts, and tirades, among other forms of human expression. As a type of artistic experiment, Jonathan Harris of Flaming Toast Productions decided to create this engaging website that documents the 86,000 most frequently used English words, ranked in order of commonality. Nay-sayers beware: This is no simple listing of the words, contained within a mundane series of connected web pages. As visitors quickly realize, this articulated end-to-end listing of these 86,000 words features scaled versions of each word, giving a "visual barometer of relevance." As the site notes, "The goal is for the user to feel embedded in the language, sifting through words like an archaeologist through sand, awaiting the unexpected find." Interestingly enough, the word "God" is one word from "began" (which is at number 375), and six words from "war." Budding urbanologists will find it interesting that the word "Chicago" is at number 6,692 and that "Shanghai" makes into the list at 18,242. [KMG]

Frogs: A Chorus of Colors [RealOne Player]

Frogs have been on Earth for more than 200 million years, and range in size from half an inch (the Cuban tree toad) to the much larger goliath frog of West Africa, which can grow to 15 inches and weigh up to 7 pounds. As a public service, the American Museum of Natural History has created this thoughtful online site that introduces visitors to the world of frogs, and as a way of highlighting their own work with these amphibians, both in the field and at the Museum. After reading an introductory essay, visitors can peruse a section on a number of frog species, which include some fine photographs and general information. Visitors will want to take a look a the Budgett's frog, which can puff up its body with air, arch its back, and scream like a cat in order to frighten intruders. The rest of the site is equally delightful, including a nice area on the reproductive cycle of frogs, a live "FrogCam" direct from the Museum, and a great section containing the sounds of frogs from the island of Madagascar. [KMG]

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service: Birds, Birds, Birds [RealOnePlayer, pdf]

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the primary federal agency charged with "protecting and enhancing the populations and habitat of more than 800 species of birds that spend all or part of their lives in the United States." As such, this site serves as a good clearinghouse for information on the various programs administered by the Service, such as the Waterfowl Population Surveys which have been conducted over the past half-century. The site is divided into four primary sections and visitors will want to take an extended look at the Education and Research area. Here individuals can learn about the various surveys that are conducted annually; and, more importantly, read through some of their helpful educational materials, such as the informative Birdscapes Magazine and the fact sheets on migratory birds. Those persons interested in the broader legal and policy context of their work will want to look through the Laws, Regulations, and Policy area, which contains policy statements, information on hunting regulations, and the text of such legislative actions as the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. [KMG]

Yale University: Terra Femto [pdf]

This Yale University website presents the Schmuttenmaer chemistry group's research in the development of experimental techniques that observe low frequency motions and absorptions directly. After reading the series of intriguing unanswered questions, students and educators can find an introduction to THz spectroscopy. The Research link offers colorful images and comprehensible text about several of its THz spectroscopy investigations. Within the descriptions, links are provided to better explain otherwise complicated phenomena. Researchers can find lengthy lists and a few downloads of the group's publications. [RME] This site is also reviewed in the August 20, 2004 NSDL Physical Sciences Report.

Interagency Council on Homelessness [pdf]

Given the complex nature of addressing such a broad problem as that of homelessness, it is not so surprising that there exists a federal initiative in the United States to collaborate on "out of the box" approaches to alleviating this situation. In 1987, with the passage of the Stewart B. McKinney Homeless Assistance Act, Congress established the Interagency Council on Homelessness in order to provide organized leadership in the area of providing assistance to homeless families and individuals. From the homepage, visitors can read about the Council's latest activities, then continue on to learn about funding opportunities and information from states and local municipalities on their own homelessness-based initiatives. Specifically, visitors can learn about the various regional coordinators employed by the Council, and read some rather ambitious 10-year plans to end chronic homelessness adopted by cities such as Columbus, Ohio, Atlanta, San Francisco, and Chicago. [KMG]

Center on Reinventing Public Education

It would seem that it is impossible to avoid the constant hand-wringing that goes on in academic and popular circles about the problems faced by most, if not all, major urban school districts across the United States. The Center on Reinventing Public Education at the University of Washington's Daniel J. Evans School of Public Affairs has been preoccupied with that question since 1993, and has developed a national program of research and analysis that examines a range of alternatives that "rethink and challenge" the current system. On their site, visitors can learn about their research initiatives, learn about their staff of experts, and download any number of helpful working papers, full-length research reports, and opinion pieces. Some of the more compelling full-length works include such publications as "Making Sense of Leading Schools: A Study of the School Principalship" and "An Impossible Job? The View from the Urban Superintendent's Chair." [KMG]

UC-Berkeley Department of Geography's San Francisco Bay Estuary

Created by researchers from the Geography Department at UC-Berkeley, this cool website was created as an image resource for researchers working to identify seeds collected in sediment cores -- thereby allowing them to date a species occurrence in a given area. The seeds available for viewing represent both saltwater and freshwater plants and "were selected from a list of common vascular plants in tidal marshes of the San Francisco Bay Estuary included in Atwater et al, 1979." Common and scientific names are provided for each plant, and the species are organized alphabetically by family. Species are included from over twenty different families including Alismataceae, Caryophyllaceae, Cyperaceae, Juncaceae, and more. Most seed image profiles contain two photographs taken at both lower and higher levels of magnification. [NL] This site is also reviewed in the August 20, 2004 NSDL Life Sciences Report.

General Interest

Sol Singer Collection of Philatelic Judaica

In 2002, Sol Singer and his wife, Ruth, donated his remarkable collection of philatelic Judaica to the special collections department of Emory University's library system. For over forty years, Singer had collected every stamp issued by the state of Israel as well as supporting material and stamps featuring Jewish themes issued by various nations across the globe. The collection is divided into three parts, including a complete set of stamps of the State of Israel up to 2002, some of which may be viewed as part of this online sampling of the diverse holdings from Singer's gift to Emory. The first section features these stamps from Israel and include such gems as the stamp commemorating the immigration of North African Jews and the dramatic stamp that was created in remembrance of Kristallnacht. Rounding out the site is a selection of relevant websites that also feature philatelic Judaica. [KMG]

Lewis Carroll Scrapbook

While there have been many notable mathematicians that have made Oxford University (England) home for their academic careers, one of them is better known for his fiction writing than for his problem solving. The Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, also known as Lewis Carroll, was the author one of the best known children's story, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Also to his credit is Through the Looking Glass. At this site maintained by the Library of Congress visitors will find the contents of a scrapbook kept by Carroll during the middle years of his life from 1855 to 1871. Of the 200 pages, 63 contain clippings and writing and all of these are available to view at the site. Users can browse or search for specific items by title or subject.

Consumer Reports

Based in Yonkers, New York, Consumer Reports has been sticking up for the rights of consumers since 1936, when they started the Consumers Union and began publishing product reviews of such common-place items as breakfast cereals, soap, stockings, and hot water bottles. On this site, visitors can learn about the history of Consumer Reports, which includes a series of rather interesting test photos that feature products like paper towels and automobiles. Of course, the main focus of the site are the product reports, and while not all of the material on the site is freely available, there is certainly enough free content to warrant several visits. The product and service reports are divided into sections such as appliances, autos, home & garden, and personal finance. The right-hand side of each section page contains free highlights, such as Finding the Best Hospital, Outdoor Lighting Design, and Camcorders. Overall, the site is organized quite well, and will be a great boon to those persons who are hoping to find quality product reports, all of which are developed by a team of knowledgeable experts. [KMG]

Cyberschoolbus [pdf, RealOne Player]

Online since the heady boom days of the Internet back in 1996, the United Nations Cyberschoolbus is part of a broader mission to promote education about international issues and the United Nations. The overall mission of the project is "to provide exceptional educational resources (both online and in print) to students growing up in a world undergoing increased globalization." The site is quite a success, as students have access to country profiles, a well-written introduction to the history and work of the United Nations, and some fun quizzes (such as the one on national flags) and the Urban Fact Game, which is a creative on-line quiz about cities and their populations. Teachers are well-served by the site as well, as it includes helpful curriculums such as those on racial discrimination and age-appropriate briefing papers. Interested teachers may want to sign up to review content for the site, as they will receive free materials for their own classroom if they do so. [KMG]

Grand Canyon: The Hidden Secrets [Macromedia Flash Reader]

Summertime means vacations for many people, and for many of these sojourning to the American Southwest, this may mean a trip to the brilliance that is the Grand Canyon in northern Arizona. The people at National Geographic certainly know this area quite well, as they have sponsored a number of research expeditions there over the past century or so. Designed as a way to publicize the film that the organization plays at their canyon visitor center, this site contains a number of helpful features for those persons who may be visiting the canyon. First, visitors will want to look at the interactive map of the South Rim offered here. The map allows visitors to learn about selected features of the area, such as the famous bald eagles, the various outlooks, and the plants indigenous to the region. The site also includes a section for young people, a number of free screensavers and wallpapers, along with a travel guide to visiting the Grand Canyon. [KMG]

Smart Growth Online [pdf]

There has been a good deal of talk about the notion of smart growth among those in the planning community, and recent works have suggested that mainstream America is becoming more intrigued by this form of managed growth and development. Some of the tenets of this movement include creating walkable neighborhoods, fostering distinctive communities, and creating a range of housing opportunities and choices. This well-developed site will allow even the casual visitor easy access to a host of materials about the smart growth movement and various projects being developed around the country that adhere to these various tenets and principles. Visitors can sign up to receive a free weekly e-newsletter, browse through full-length publications in their resources archive, and sign up to become a member of the smart growth network. Finally, there is also an online audio archive of talks and lectures sponsored by the smart growth network that dates back to 2000. Some of the speakers featured in the archive include the well-known author and social critic Joel Garreau and Robert Lang, director of urban and metropolitan research at the Fannie Mae Foundation. [KMG]

Network Tools

DeskPort 1.0

As most users can attest, a good deal of repetitive searching goes on as individuals move about the Internet in search of various items. DeskPort 1.0 is predicated on just these types of searches, as the application saves users time, as its forms combine the most-requested items from each category website. This process saves times, as users no longer have the scroll through multiple web pages to access what they are looking for across the Internet. The application works essentially like a typical browser, but it is pre-loaded with the specific reference sites that users browse most frequently. This version is compatible with all systems running Windows 98 and above. [KMG] 0.3.98

Wouldn't it be nice to have a search tool that retrieves various links or news items related to what you were currently looking at on the Internet? Well, the beta-version of Blinkx does precisely that. Using self-learning algorithms to understand the context of what users are reading on their computer screen (such as emails, websites, and the like), the application works in the background to instantly connect to related information on the web. On the Blinkx website, visitors can learn more about the program, view screenshots of the application at work, and read through a FAQ section. While a version for the Macintosh is planned for the near future, this version of Blinkx is compatible only with systems running Windows 98 and above. [KMG]

In The News

Recent Scientific Reports Focus on Potential Climate Change in Europe and California

Global Warming Clouds the Future
Europe 'must adapt on climate'
Technology Already Exists to Stabilize Global Warming
Emission Scenarios, Climate Change, and Impacts on California (2004) [pdf]
EEA: Impacts of Europe's changing climate [pdf]
Union of Concerned Scientists: Global Warming

There is significant debate among scientists on the nature of global warming, with some pointing to increased temperatures as being merely indicative of long-range climatic change that has gone on for thousands and thousands of years across the planet. Others point to the disruptive effects that human activity has on the atmosphere, and continue to call for a global effort to mitigate the effects of these actions on the environment. As this debate continues to develop within the scientific community, two new reports were released this week that predict serious climate change in both Europe and California during the next one hundred years. A report issued by the European Environment Agency this week indicates that less than 50 years remain in which a concerted effort can be made by a variety of government institutions in order to mitigate the effects of this changing climate. The report also notes that the 2003 heat wave that struck Europe effectively melted the mass of Alpine glaciers by 10% and that harvests in many southern European countries were down by 30% in some areas. Another related report that was published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this week dealt with the potential effects of climate change in the state of California. The report was authored by nineteen scientists, who adapted two of the latest computer models of global change to examine how California might be affected under two varying scenarios for emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases. In its discussion of various related issues, the report also suggested that under the less-optimistic scenario that such climate change would have a devastating effect on some of California's signature industries, such as wine making and tourism. In terms of temperature change, the report noted that in 50 to 100 years "inland cities would feel like Death Valley does today". The report did not comment on what Death Valley would feel like in 50 to 100 years. [KMG]

The first link leads to a news article from this Tuesday's San Francisco Chronicle that offers some discussion of the recent report on the potential effects of global climate change on California. The second link leads to a special online report from the BBC that reviews some of the findings offered by the recent climate study commissioned by the European Environment Agency. The third link, taken from Science Daily, talks about existing technology that could be used to stop the escalation of global warming. The fourth link leads to the homepage of ATMOS Research and Consulting, and contains the full-text of the recent study on the potential emissions scenarios affecting California and the potential long-term effects. The fifth link leads to the webpage of the European Environment Agency where visitors may download and peruse the complete report that discusses the impacts of Europe's changing climate. The sixth and final link leads to some proposed solutions to mitigate the effects of global warming offered by the Union of Concerned Scientists. [KMG]

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